Aurora church's display spotlights missing, murdered indigenous women

  • Michelle Curiel, director of praise and worship at Aurora's Wesley United Methodist Church, poses Thursday, May 5, with an outdoor REDress installation on the church lawn. The REDress project calls attention to missing and murdered indigenous women. The display will run through May.

    Michelle Curiel, director of praise and worship at Aurora's Wesley United Methodist Church, poses Thursday, May 5, with an outdoor REDress installation on the church lawn. The REDress project calls attention to missing and murdered indigenous women. The display will run through May. Courtesy of Al Benson

 
 
Updated 5/18/2022 12:07 AM

May 5 was national Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day.

Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora observed the day by installing eight red dresses on a clothesline between poles on the church lawn.

 

Michelle Curiel, installation coordinator and Wesley director of praise and worship, said "The REDress Project is a visual reminder of the staggering number of missing or murdered Indigenous women who are no longer with us.

"We hope to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence," Curiel said.

According to Curiel, the installation is scheduled to continue 24/7 through May.

Assisting her were congregants Jim Merk and Faith Burnett, both of Aurora. Meerk is a member of Wesley's governing board. Burnett is a West Aurora High School freshman.

Curiel added that Missing Murdered Indigenous Women USA, a nonprofit, is dedicated to helping missing and murdered American Indian women and their families. It is sponsored by Tryon Life Community Farm of Portland, Ore., another nonprofit.

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Curiel explained that murder is the third leading cause of death in native women. Their median age is 29. Native women have a murder rate of 10 times higher than the national average.

Lack of communication combined with jurisdictional issues between state, local, federal and tribal law enforcement make it nearly impossible to begin the investigative process.

Curiel said, "We must protect the sacred and bring awareness to this crisis that has been overlooked."

For more information, visit mmiwusa.org or visit nativehope.org.

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