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Exhibit at Fort Lewis College reveals the extent of the Missing Murdered Indigenous Relatives issue


Native Lens


DURANGO, Colo. — A student club at Fort Lewis College in Durango calls itself the “Rising Matriarchs.” These women collaborated with the Fort Lewis College’s Center of Southwest Studies to create a group project to raise awareness about Missing or Murdered Indigenous Relatives. The term “Indigenous Relatives” refers to the kinship between Indigenous People ­— regardless of tribal or clan relationships. 

Lauryn Baldwin, Rising Matriarch’s project coordinator at Fort Lewis College, said students from campus decided to create three pieces: a ribbon skirt, atikluk and blanket with the goal of provoking community conversations.

Each work is unique with original designs contributed by students. Elise Boulanger, a Fort Lewis College curatorial fellow, asked students to look to their communities for inspiration of what to create as an exhibit. 

At the beginning of fall 2022, both Baldwin and Sahalee Martin, president of Rising Matriarchs at Fort Lewis College, had the idea of creating traditional garments. Boulanger provided the necessary materials for students to design their own cut-out circles and attached those pieces to the ribbon skirt.

“The Stories We Wear” exhibit opened November 30, 2022 on the Fort Lewis College campus at the McPherson Chapel. Fort Lewis College is also dealing with its own dark history as an Indian Boarding School. Baldwin said the three pieces will move around campus for the public to observe and interact with.

Fort Lewis College students, staff, and the Durango community attended the opening where students talked about their semester-long work. Several students also shared personal stories about why they chose to participate in the project.

Baldwin spoke about her cousin, Ashley Johnson-Barr, who was murdered. Also about another missing relative, Harriet Baldwin Lane. As Baldwin spoke, Boulanger and others comforted her as they have experienced similar losses.

Three traditional garments created by Rising Matriarchs Club: Ribbon skirt, atikluk, and blanket
Left to right: Sahalee Martin, Ellyse Fredericks, and Elise Boulanger share their own stories of missing and murdered relatives
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