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Fawn Douglas, MMIW Deer Woman Rising, Grant Hall, UNLV, performance, 2019.


My body is dressed in red ribbon regalia, a fancy shawl butterfly dancer without her wings. The long red ribbons flow off of my sleeves onto the cold floor. I am found this way. As the audience views the portrayal of an Indigenous woman slain and left for dead. The heartbeat of the Northern drum wakes me. I rise slowly, in pain, and woken from death. I am the embodiment of the MMIW story. I am someone’s daughter, mother, sister, niece or aunt. I emerge and transform as a butterfly from the cocoon. Shaking the pain from my limbs, the tears flow as hurt from my heart turns to strength as the drum beat grows stronger. My spirit rises and fights to reclaim itself. I rise in the form and style of the fancy shawl dancer. The fancy shawl dance, or butterfly dance, is a dance of emergence and transition. I move with old-style steps and end on the strongest heartbeat with my fist in the air. I am the deer woman. In our tales, the deer woman has been demonized as a villain, seeking out people doing wrong to hurt them. There has not been a strong emphasis on how she became this otherworldly being. She is the missing and murdered Indigenous woman, given life by the breath of the deer. I am also a survivor and interpret the story through this performance art. It tells the story of resilience, change and transformation. I have created the regalia and sewn the ribbon skirt myself under the guidance and mentorship of Ohlone artist Amaya Blackhorn. Instead of ribbons sewn to a shawl, she is without shawl, the emergence is within. Leggings and elks tooth fashioned out of plastic material.

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