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Red Dress Gala for MMIP Examines “The Influence of Art”

April 13, 2024

Art can help humans comprehend tragedy and illuminate injustice. This year’s Red Dress Gala, presented by the Red Ribbon Skirt Society on May 4 in Rapid City, will use visual art, theater, literature, and more to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.

Among the evening’s speakers will be renowned Sicangu Lakota author Joseph M. Marshall III. All attendees will receive free signed copies of his novel Sing for the Red Dress, a haunting narrative of the ongoing problem of MMIP. SDHC is helping to provide these books as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ United We Stand: Connecting through Culture initiative.

Held on the eve of National Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, the Gala provides an opportunity to shed light on the issue while remembering the victims and comforting their loved ones. The Red Ribbon Skirt Society, a project of the non-profit Shamus Project, Inc., was founded in 2016 by Cheyenne River Sioux activist Lily Mendoza, who launched the Red Dress Gala in 2023 with specific goals in mind.

 “Not only is the Gala an awareness, educational, fundraising event, but also a time to gather and remember our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Children and Two-Spirit individuals,” Mendoza said. “To bring families together letting them know we stand in prayer with them through their grief. To remind families and the public we will continue to Say Her Name, she will not be forgotten, and we will continue to fight to bring her home.”

There are still many to bring home. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetimes, and that does not include men, children, or Two-Spirit persons. The Centers for Disease Control reports that homicide rates among all members of Indigenous populations are nearly four times higher than those for non-Hispanic whites, while Indigenous women also suffer high rates of intimate partner violence (58%) and sexual violence (44%).

This year’s Gala will be held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, 505 N. 5th Street in Rapid City, with the following events planned:

  • 5:30 pm – Social and Auction 
  • 7 pm – Dinner
  • 8 pm All Our Relatives” Round Table Discussion, featuring author Joseph M. Marshall III; Leya Hale, director of the film Bring Her Home; and artists/gallery owners Rachel Berg and Jennifer White
  • 8:45 pm – “We Are Not a Statistic” Presentation by Unci Maka Theater, followed by the calling of MMIP names

Tickets are available for purchase ($135) through Eventbrite. For more information, contact Lily Mendoza at (605) 431-8231 or or visit the Red Ribbon Skirt Society’s Facebook page.

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