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‘Seeing Red’ exhibition focuses on MMIP

Big Cypress Councilwoman Billie places her red-painted hand on a board to symbolize the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous persons (MMIP). (Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)

BIG CYPRESS – The missing or murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) movement has seen increased visibility in recent years from the public, government officials, the media and in Hollywood productions. Advocates have also cast a wide net to include not only women, but any Indigenous person – sometimes referred to as missing or murdered Indigenous persons movement, or MMIP.

MMIP is the focus of a new exhibition at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation that opened May 5 – “Seeing Red.” The date coincided with Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day – a national day of awareness for what advocates say is an epidemic of underreported crimes that most often impact Native women, girls and LGBTQI+ people (often referred to in Native communities as two-spirit).

Lorelei Tommie conceptualized and co-curated the exhibition and opening event with museum staff. She originally had an idea to create one 3D art piece to help represent the issue.

“Then I realized it needed to be more than one piece or one voice because it affects all of us,” Tommie said. “I did a social media blast and asked for people to submit artwork. The idea blossomed from there.”

Tommie, who is the daughter of artist Samuel Tommie, said part of her inspiration is tied to the case of Owachige Osceola, a tribal member who was found dead in her apartment in Norman, Oklahoma, almost 10 years ago. The Norman Police Department and Osceola’s family say she was murdered, but no one has ever been charged. She was 27 years old.

Tommie said she hopes the exhibition will spark more conversation and activism among tribal members.

“After the [May 5] event, a lot of people came up to me and had stories, it’s out there,” Tommie said. “Our community is very private. Many people don’t want to talk about it. For the people who are ready to talk about it, it’s for them.”

Durante Blais-Billie worked with Tommie on the project. She did research and gave feedback on how to approach the topic. Blais-Billie works in advocacy for Indigenous rights and with Hard Rock International on programs that help to prevent human trafficking.

“This topic is direly important for our tribe. Not only does knowledge about the crisis allow us to support other tribal communities affected by violence like kidnappings and human trafficking, but it opens our eyes that the crisis of MMIP impacts all communities,” Blais-Billie said. “Domestic violence, child and elder abuse, and non-trafficking forms of exploitation are all still a part of the MMIP crisis.”

‘It was emotional’

Dozens of people, including tribal members, tribal employees and others came to the exhibition’s opening. Tommie led a presentation in the museum’s theater and later a candlelight vigil took place in the sculpture garden. Some tribal members shared their thoughts on the MMIP issue.

“It was emotional to say the least,” Tommie said. “This is not a new issue, this is historical. We all grew up with these stories.”

The exhibit features information and resources, where to donate money, and provides toolkits for communities and families to use if someone goes missing.

“There is so much work to be done to end violence within our own communities here in the Southeast,” Blais-Billie said. “A huge step is teaching our youth about healthy relationships and familiarizing them with the services that can help them get out of dangerous situations. I hope this exhibit inspires our communities to take these steps and many others in preventing abuse and exploitation.”

Tommie said she’s seeking community input to organize a tribal group that would support those with court costs in MMIP cases. She can be contacted at

The exhibition runs through November. Tommie said she expects it to return in 2024.

Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers, left, and Big Cypress Councilwoman Marianne Billie take part in a candlelight vigil at the exhibition’s opening May 5. (Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)
The event brought out tribal members, tribal employees and others to the grounds of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)
Lorelei Tommie conceptualized and co-curated the exhibition and opening event with museum staff. (Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)
The “Seeing Red” exhibition is scheduled to run through November. (Damon Scott)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at