Museum Minute: Symbolism Of Red

Apr 3, 2020

Blackfoot Indian Reservation ca. 1890
Credit Plains Indian Museum

The color red is symbolic for many different cultures and movements. It has become associated with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement, which hopes to increase awareness of the violence experienced by Indigenous women.

Rebecca West, the curator of the Plains Indian Museum, said many people question why MMIW movement would use red.

“People often go to different assumptions because they may think that red is somehow a color of violence. But in actuality, there is a belief in some Native cultures, that red is a color that the spirits can see,” said West. “So the spirits can see this from elsewhere, and they can see people who are on Earth wearing the color red.”

West said her curatorial team decided to use an object from the past up on exhibit to highlight the MMIW movement. That object is a 1890 red dress from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.

“We're trying to link these older objects to contemporary movements. So that we can keep their significance going and let people know that our collections aren't just based in the past, but they have significance for the future,” said West.