Whatcom Community College recently partnered with Whatcom Museum to bring a display of empty red dresses to downtown Bellingham.
The REDress Project is designed to bring awareness to the data, or lack thereof, regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women. Métis Nation member Jaime Black began the original REDress Project in 2011. She displayed a collection of red dresses on clothing hangers in Winnipeg to bring awareness to crimes against Aboriginal women in Canada.
“It’s easy to see Native people as history, but we can be seen outside history, we are here, present.” said the Interim College Equity Officer at Whatcom, Terri Thayer, an enrolled member of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.
Thayer proposed bringing The REDress Project to the Whatcom Museum, following an exhibit at the college in 2019. She intends to arrange the dresses annually and hopes that the project continues to grow.
“Bringing diversity and equity as a community is important,” said Thayer of the partnership with the museum.
Whatcom Museum Marketing and Public Relations Manager Christina Claasen said the partnership is part of an Indigenous initiative . The campaign is meant to shine a light on traditional Salish art and bring the community closer together through understanding.
“The museum has always focused on Salish peoples,” said Claasen, “but in the last five years we’ve had more partnership with native tribes.”
This idea of partnership has encouraged stronger relationship building between the museum and the local tribal communities.
“I feel like people are too afraid to talk about it, or they’re ignorant because no one is talking about it,” said Devin James, a member of the Lummi Nation. “So I love the installation, if the whole world acted like this everything would be different.”
The art installation was displayed in the courtyard of Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building May 5, Murdered and Missing Indigenous People’s Day, through May 15.