Alaska Native artist, Amber Webb, hand-stitched an oversized kuspuk from white, cotton sheets she bought at a thrift store. In permanent marker, she drew the faces of more than a dozen Alaska Native women who have been murdered or are missing. Six of those women are from Bristol Bay—four from Dillingham, one from Aleknagik and one from Manokotak.
Homicide is a leading cause of death of American women under 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is especially true for Native American and Alaska Native women, who experience the second highest rate of homicide of any race or ethnicity.
Webb lives in Anchorage, but is originally from Dillingham. She said that the plight of several missing women in particular inspired her to create her work of art.
“Valerie Sifsof, she’s still missing. I know her family is still looking for answers about her disappearance. And then LoriDee Wilson as well. Val and LoriDee, they were a big part of doing the project for me. When I was young, my family spent a lot of time with Val’s aunts. As a kid, I can remember seeing her at family functions and thinking she was so cool. Seeing her family try to come to terms with having lost her that way has had a pretty profound impact on my life,” Webb said.
Valerie Sifsof has been missing since 2012. LoriDee Wilson has been missing since 2016. Both Sifsof and Wilson are from Dillingham.
Webb hopes her art piece will serve both as a way of honoring women who have been lost and of encouraging people to join a broader conversation about preventing violence against Native women.
“It’s opening a conversation that has be had by families, by law enforcement, by the academic community and legislators. I think all of Alaska has to think about it,” Webb said.
Webb is making arrangements for a traveling exhibit, which she hopes to display in Dillingham and Anchorage.