A Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) installation in Alaska was vandalized late last month, a local radio station reported.
The installation was created by the Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC). It featured 60 red dresses hung from trees around Ward Lake — located in Southeast Alaska on Revillagigedo Island — each representing an Indigenous person from Ketchikan, Saxman, Prince of Wales Island, and Metlakatla  who is missing or has been murdered.

The garments were installed on May 15 to commemorate MMIP Awareness Month under a permit KIC held from the U.S. Forestry Service. By the time the installation was scheduled to come down on May 31, 48 of the dresses were missing. In recent days, photos have been surfacing on social media showing some of the dresses crumpled near the lakeside trail, half buried or discarded in piles near drain pipes.

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The tribe’s council issued a statement condemning “a hurtful and disrespectful act that undermines the efforts to bring understanding and raise awareness about the MMIP epidemic.” 

Similar installations are featured throughout Canada and the United States during May to bring awareness to the disproportionate number of Indigenous people who are victims of violent crimes or go missing. 

Murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women, with the murder rate ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, Alaska reported 229 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous persons — 149 missing and 80 murdered.

Gloria Burns, KIC’s vice president and the chair of the social services committee, told local radio station KRBD that the tribe hung the dresses with remembrance and intention in an effort to create a “safe space.”

 “And so when you’re going through that process of trying to create a safe space, and then it’s intentionally made unsafe, it feels very much like a violation,” Burns told KRBD. “I think, you know, the hard part is that missing and murdered indigenous people, it’s been happening since colonization, we really don’t talk about it. We really haven’t spoken those to the outside community.”

Anyone with information on the vandalization is encouraged to contact local law enforcement.  

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Author: Elyse WildEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Elyse Wild is senior editor for Native News Online and Tribal Business News.