MMIWGT2S Red Dress Project

Summary

With the support of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and many more university organizations, English Graduate Student Jordan Traut brought to life a creative project honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls Trans and 2 Spirits (MMIWGT2S) on campus. The Red Dress display, featuring original Native art by Jamie Ray John (Anishinaabe & Korean 2 Spirit) on a handmade ceremonial dress by Carolyn Rittenhouse (Lakota Sioux), will permanently reside in the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences building, McComsey Hall. The final project and dress are being dedicated to the university - a symbol of honor and commitment - on the MMWG National Day of Awareness, May 5th, 2022. Many thanks to those supporting this student-led, scholar-activist project and the MMIWGT2S movement!

Continue reading to learn more about the project's inspiration and development in Spring 2022. Located in the drop-down accordions are resources and documents from the project. 

“What many don't understand is it's never just our women who go missing, it's more than our mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas, and cousins; it's our water protectors, land defenders, powwow dancers, language speakers, and ceremony holders that our communities lose when our people disappear. ”

- Jamie Ray John (Anishinaabe & Korean) | Featured Artist

MMIW, MMIWGT2S, and Red Dresses

The Red Dress project is a national arts-based movement to raise awareness for and honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls Trans and 2 Spirits (MMIWGT2S). The red dress—a powerful symbol of these grassroots movements and recognized across the North American continent—will be the main component of our display.

Millersville Exhibit Mission

MMIW and MMIWGT2S are sounding the alarm on extreme violence against Native[1]  women, girls, transgender, and 2 Spirit people and calling attention to the national silence surrounding their disappearances and murders. Millersville's project aims align with the movement to increase visibility and awareness in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This display calls on the campus community to be allies to our First Americans, giving educators and students access to information and resources. For Native students on campus and in the community, this Red Dress display will serve as a commitment to always honor and respect Indigenous voices in the curriculum and on campus. It will be a visual representation of their valued presence in our institution and community. 

dress

Photo Credit: LNP 2022

[1] Identifying any indigenous person or population using English-language terminology (vs. using Native languages) is problematic. There are arguments made for and against each identifier. Therefore, we will use a variety: Native, Native American, American Indian, Indigenous, First American. It is always best to identify a person as an individual, using their name and/or tribal/NHO affiliations/memberships. Not sure? Just ask.

“This project calls on us all to apply what we are teaching and learning to better our communities and the world with our individual talents and work. It was conceived with great compassion. All those involved hope the Red Dress inspires Millersville University students to take a moment each time they pass it in McComsey, reflecting on the experiences of our First American people. We hope the design portion of the project empowers the next generation of Native artists to express their voices, taking comfort in the idea that their work has a far-reaching impact. ”

- Jordan Traut, Project Creator | M.A. English '20

Project Inspiration and inception

After a museum research trip to Vancouver Island in Canada, English M.A. student, Jordan Traut, was inspired by the visibility and awareness surrounding MMIW and hoped to honor MMIW and MMIWGT2S on campus upon her return. Dr. Kaitlin Mondello (Advisor) and Amy Denney (President) of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) offered their support, developing official funding proposals and establishing project outcomes early in the Spring 2022 semester. The MMIWGT2S Red Dress Project secured over $6,000.00 in support from multiple organizations at Millersville University. 

This is an critical space for Native Voices to be present and leading the discussion. Jordan and AAUW convened a panel of students, staff, faculty, and guest judges and advertised a national call for original, Indigenous youth art submissions. The selected artwork was screen printed onto Panelist Carolyn Rittenhouse (Lakota Sioux)'s handmade ceremonial dress in the exhibit. 

“We are so proud with what has been accomplished with this MMIWG and MMIWGT2S project and event. It is AAUW's mission to do anything to bring awareness and support for woman of all walks of life. We feel this event showcases what a difference a few people making an effort can do for the community as well as for women. ”

- Amy Denney | AAUW President 2022
  • Meet the Panel
    Meet the faculty, staff, students, and guest judges who reviewed the artwork.
    • Jordan Traut, English Graduate Assistant and AAUW Director of Special Programs (project creator, coordinator, non-voting member
    • Dr. Kaitlin Mondello, English Eco Studies Professor 
    • Dr. Amber Nicole Pfannenstiel, English Composition and Rhetoric Professor 
    • Michele Santamaria, Learning Design Librarian and Assistant Professor, McNairy Library
    • Colleen Medicine (Ojibwe, Anishinaabe), Association on American Indian Affairs Program Director
    • Carolyn Rittenhouse, M.S.W. (Lakota Sioux), Advocates for Native Nations
    • Winnona Piazza, High School English Language Arts Teacher, Milton Hershey School
  • Project Timeline
    • Art Submission Application opens on March 1st, 2022
    • Art Submission Application closes on April 1st, 2022 at 11:59pm
    • Judging April 2nd-4th, 2022
    • Winner announced via their preferred method of communication by April 5th, 2022 
    • Dress Fabrication begins April 6th, 2022
    • Made in Millersville Conference April 12th, 2022
    • Red Dress Reveal and Reception on May 5th, 2022 (National MMIWG Day) with the artist invited to attend and speak (fully funded by the project)
    • Red Dress and Dedication Plaque permanently mounted in the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences building, McComsey, outside the Dean's Office 
  • Part One: 2021-2022 Call for Original Indigenous Art
    March 1st, 2022 - April 1st, 2022.

    The Competition

    $500.00 will be awarded to the selected artist for their work. Working with the artist via their preferred method of communication, we will incorporate the winning design on the red dress in the display under their advisement. Ideally this means submissions must be transferable to red fabric. Simple single color/line drawings may be best suited for this project. However, we do not want to limit your art, so all mediums will be considered. (I.E. If you want to hand-paint a red dress that you own and submit a photograph of it, it will be considered so as long as you are willing to give the entire final product to the university for the display.)

    We are only accepting the following file formats: jpg, png, and pdf.

    Selecting the Design

    Eligible individuals must self-identify as Indigenous American and be aged 24 or younger. Student status is not required. Only one submission per artist will be considered. Our panel is comprised of University faculty and student women. We also have one guest judge from the Association on American Indian Affairs.

    Note: We are not judging your art because art is subjective. We will select a winner based on how well the design aligns with the goals and mission of the MMIW movement as well as how practically it can be applied to the red dress for the display. A small essay component is required. Artists will retain ownership of their design, but the university will own the red dress displaying the artwork on it.

    Contact

    English Graduate Student Jordan Traut (she/her),the project creator, at jetraut@millersville.edu with any questions. 

    mmiwflyer

  • Part Two: Art Reveal and Dress Fabrication

    Artist: Jamie Ray John (Anishinaabe & Korean 2 Spirit)

    Jamie is an enrolled member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. They are Kitchwikiiwedong Anishinaabe, meaning, the "People of the Big Bay" in English. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ART: Honoring MMIWGT2s and THE artist's maternal lineage

    The design features four women, made to honor the Indigenous women in the artist’s own lineage. At the top is Nokomis, modeled after their great-grandmother, Alice. On either side of her are seven stars, representing the concept of the Seven Generations. On the matriarch’s shawl is a bear – the artist’s clan animal, associated with healers and water protectors. The woman with the hummingbird is the artist’s late auntie. She had a deeply spiritual connection to the hummingbird. In her raised fist she holds a sage bundle, a sacred plant medicine to the nations of Turtle Island. To the right of her, stands the sister with the butterfly on her shawl. Butterflies are part of the story associated with fancy shawl dancing, a tribute to the artist’s auntie who used to dance, along with all the other culture carriers lost to this crisis. In the center is the artist’s mother, a land defender, water protector, and survivor. Instead of wearing a shawl, her form encompasses the land and the sky, as if to say, "we are the land."

    Jamie's MMIWGT2S artwork, selected by the Panel as part of the National Call for Indigenous art to feature on Carolyn's dress in the exhibit.

    Dress: handmade by carolyn rittenhouse (lakota sioux)

    Carolyn Rittenhouse gifted the red dress she handmade for her niece and daughter's Isnati Awicalowanpi (Becoming a Woman Ceremony) to the project. After the art is screen printed onto it and the display is revealed at the reception, pictures will be available here.

    While all MMIW and MMIWGT2S red dresses are important symbols creating spaces where we can remember and honor Natives who were taken and who have passed together, the red dress in the Millersville display is sacred because of its life before the exhibit's creation. It's mother-daughter spirit and energy empower the movement and the art on it. 

    Do you want to learn more about this concept - the spirit of an object? The First Americans Museum (FAM) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has an exhibit, in their Mezzanine Gallery, entitled "WINIKO: Life of an Object" (2022). Learn more from their website by clicking here

  • Part Three: Reception on MMIWG National Day of Awareness
    May 5th, 2022, 7-9pm in McComsey Hall, Ford Atrium

    jordan speaking

    Jordan Traut speaking at the event on May 5th. Photo credit: LNP 2022

    carolyn and daughter speakingCarolyn Rittenhouse and Leeanna butcher rittenhouse speaking at the event on may 5th. Photo credit: LNP 2022

    Event Program and highlights

    • Jack Richardson (Haliwa-Saponi), Ceremonial Drum Song Blessing
    • Dr. Kaitlin Mondello, Introductions on behalf of the American Association of University Women
    • Jordan Traut, Ethical student scholar-activism and the project's inspiration 
    • Jamies Ray John (Anishinaabe & Korean 2 Spirit), MMIWGT2S Movement and their artwork's relevance to the cause
    • Carolyn Rittenhouse (Lakota Sioux), Lakota Isnati Awicalowanpi (Becoming a Woman Ceremony) presentation and handmade dress 
    • Danielle Rittenhouse Carr (Lakota Sioux), Jingle Dress Dance
    • Traditional Diné blue corn cookies made by Rochelle Garcia (Diné) of Blue Corn Custom Designs

    mmiw reception flyer

  • Dedication Plaque
    Please enjoy our sample while the official plaque is made.

    May 5th, 2022.

    This red dress honors the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The physical dress was made by Carolyn Rittenhouse (Lakota Sioux). It was originally used for her daughter and niece’s Isnati Awicalowanpi (Becoming a Woman Ceremony), a traditional Lakota Sioux ceremony.

    The artwork printed on the dress, designed by Jamie Ray John (Anishinaabe and Korean 2Spirit), is a call to all of Millersville University to always respect Native Voices and experiences in our classrooms and on our campus. The artist says, “The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls Trans and 2 Spirits (MMIWGT2S) is connected to our fights as Indigenous peoples for sovereignty over our ancestral lands, languages, and traditions. Part of growing up in my community meant knowing people who went missing and Native women who were murdered by their partners and going without answers, oftentimes for years. It's rare to find a Native family who doesn't have a relative who has gone missing or has been murdered; this is the continuation of our genocide. What many don't understand is that it's never just our women who go missing, it's more than our mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas, and cousins; it's our water protectors, land defenders, powwow dancers, language speakers, and ceremony holders that our communities lose when our people disappear.”

    The design features four women, made to honor the Indigenous women in the artist’s own lineage. At the top is Nokomis, modeled after their great-grandmother, Alice. On either side of her are seven stars, representing the concept of the Seven Generations. On the matriarch’s shawl is a bear – the artist’s clan animal, associated with healers and water protectors. The woman with the hummingbird is the artist’s late auntie. She had a deeply spiritual connection to the hummingbird. In her raised fist she holds a sage bundle, a sacred plant medicine to the nations of Turtle Island. To the right of her, stands the sister with the butterfly on her shawl. Butterflies are part of the story associated with fancy shawl dancing, a tribute to the artist’s auntie who used to dance, along with all the other culture carriers lost to this crisis. In the center is the artist’s mother, a land defender, water protector, and survivor. Instead of wearing a shawl, her form encompasses the land and the sky, as if to say, "we are the land."

    This dress is a reminder that MMIW and MMIWGT2S does not exist in a vacuum. It calls on us to combat and eradicate the circumstances that allow Native women, girls, transgender and 2spirit people to disappear. The artist encourages us to “talk about strengthening Indigenous sovereignty and land justice.”

    May this installation serve as a symbol of Millersville’s commitment to making our Indigenous community feel seen, heard, and valued at all levels of the university. Many thanks to those individuals and organizations involved in the creation of this installation.

    Miigwetch. Pilamaya. Thank you.

  • Our Supporters
    Many thanks to our partners who are dedicating their time and resources.

    American Association of University Women, Special thanks to Advisor Dr. Kaitlin Mondello and President Amy Denney (campus chapter)

    English and World Languages Department, Special thanks to English Graduate Coordinator Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel 

    President's Commission on the Status of Women, Special thanks to Interim Director Dr. Emily Baldys

    Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

    President's Commission on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion

    The Arts At Millersville: The Ware Center, Special thanks to the Wickersham-Burrowes Fund for Excellence in the Arts

    College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Special thanks to the Dean's Office

    Student Government Association

     

  • Get Involved
    Join Student Organizations: AAUW and FANN

    Become a scholar-activist. Check out these student organization's Get Involved @ MU pages today!

    American Association of University Women

    2022 President: Amy Denney

    Advisor: Dr. Kaitlin Mondello 

    Seeking students interested in leadership positions for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

    AAUW Logo

     Friends of Advocates for Native Nations 

    Advisor: Carolyn Rittenhouse (M.S.W.)

    Seeking students interested in leadership positions for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

    FANN Logo

  • Media
  • First American Resources
    Resources across a variety of disciplines.

    Oldest Non-Profit Serving Indian Country:

    Indigenous Youth Organizations:

    Legal and Literary: 

    Violence against Native Americans: 

    Museum Resources: 

    *These resources, marked with an asterisk, are not exclusively all-Native. Be mindful of this when researching.