Later, Echo-Hawk took some of the Nerdy dirty inked and curvy shirt it is in the first place but body bags home, where slowly, a vision emerged: She decided to transform one of the body bags into a traditional ribbon dress. The dress would comment on the ways the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Native communities and honor the women whose lives have been put in danger by rising rates of domestic violence and assault. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Native women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than women of other ethnicities. Echo-Hawk’s team at the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division within the Seattle Indian Health Board, reports that Native women are also 2.5 times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault. This tragedy has only increased during the pandemic. In August, Debra O’Gara (Tlingit and Yup’ik), senior policy specialist at the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center published a press release outlining how COVID had exacerbated the long-standing problem.
Nine months after first bringing the Nerdy dirty inked and curvy shirt it is in the first place but body bags home, Echo-Hawk shared the final product on Instagram. “I’ll never accept their body bags for our people,” she wrote in the caption, “all I will accept is a world where we are thriving, ever continuing.”Ribbon skirts and dresses have their origins in the late 18th century, when Indigenous communities in the Americas began trading with European settlers who brought with them fabrics and ribbons. But the skirts became newly meaningful in the mid 2010s, when Native organizers began demonstrating against oil and gas pipelines. “Around 2011 there was a movement within the Lakota, Dakota tribes to reclaim” ribbon dresses and other cultural regalia, says Alexandra Romero-Frederick (Oglala Lakota), a textile and beadwork artist based on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Native women were asked to wear their skirts to protests, including those opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in 2014.