July 29, 2014


On the afternoon of August 13, 2014, residents of the four-state region will witness stories from survivors of sexual violence stitched together on 200 bright, red quilt squares. The Monument Quilt will be on display from 2pm to 6pm at Robert Whitebird Culture Center in partnership with the Quapaw Tribe’s Domestic Violence Program and the LEAD Agency.  Larger than two basketball courts put together, the quilt is traveling the US this summer as part of an ongoing project to create public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse.

“In the creation of this historic display, women are able to start the healing process and make the public aware that many survivors are “Not Alone.” Myself and the staff of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma deem it an honor to have such a priceless piece displayed at our tribal facility on this momentous occasion,” says Dee Killion, Director Family Services/Domestic Violence for the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.

“I’m very excited to bring the quilt to the tri-state region and to the area where I grew up,” says Rebecca Nagle, a Joplin native who co-directs Force, the organization behind The Monument Quilt. “This summer’s tour will create a national conversation about supporting survivors of rape and abuse. I am very proud to see my community not only being part of this national conversation, but also playing a role in leading it. Together we will create a culture where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed.”

Sexual violence in the United States is nothing short of an epidemic.  In the US, 1 in 3 women, 1 in 3 trans* people and 1 in 6 men will be raped or abused in their lifetime.  Women are twice as likely to experience rape as breast cancer.

At the display, attendees will witness survivors’ stories, demonstrate public support, and transform their local response to rape. Participants will be able to write their own reflections, hear speeches and join in community. Survivors and allies who wish to add a square to the in-progress quilt can make one following these instructions. Squares brought on August 13 will be added to the display.

The Monument Quilt provides clear and accessible steps to support survivors of rape and abuse when, often, people don’t know where to begin. Through public recognition, the quilt reconnects survivors to their community.

The Quapaw Tribe’s Domestic Violence Program is one of the partners hosting the quilt display.  The program works to promote awareness of sexual assault within the community, restoring the traditional lifestyle in which native women were considered sacred. Among their services are advocacy and counseling, transitional housing, food and clothing, and assistance obtaining protective orders.  “This event will bring awareness to our community of our program and what we have to offer,” says program assistant Susan Hollan.

In the United States, Native women experience assault at rates higher than any other ethnic group.  Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than non-Native women. The high rates violence are created and perpetuated by US laws and culture. Last year, through the work of local and national advocates, some of these laws changed with the 2013 Congress re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was drafted in 1994 in part by Senator Joe Biden, with the support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups. The Act passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994. Since that time VAWA was reauthorized by Congress three different times, advancing with its efforts to combat violence among all races and ethnicities. Additionally VAWA provides specific support for work with tribes and tribal organizations to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking against Native American women. The newly-reauthorized VAWA (passed March 7th, 2013) includes new protections for Native American women who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. 34 percent of Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes, and 39 percent will be victims of domestic violence.  Current legislation does nothing to address the jurisdictional gap that leaves many Native American women absent of a path to bring their attackers to justice,” says Dee Killion.

Advocates from Oklahoma, like Killion, were an important part of creating the legal change for the rest of the country. The bill passed the House after Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole led a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote against party lines.

The lack of legal jurisdiction over violence against women is part of a long history of the federal government not recognising the sovereignty of Native Nations. In Northeast Oklahoma, communities have also been affected by the illegitimate use of their lands for mining.

In the late-nineteenth century, the Bureau of Indian Affairs illegitimately sold land belonging to the Quapaw Tribe to mining companies. Mining on these lands lasted from 1891 to 1970. After the mining ended large piles of leftover mine tailings contaminated with lead were left on the land.  The lead-contaminated chat-piles not only turned Tar Creek orange, but have also contaminated soil and air with lead, leading to health problems for many residents now living in what was once the tri-state mining area.

“Bringing the Monument Quilt to the heart of the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma links forever the rape of our lands with the violence experienced by us as individuals. LEAD Agency is proud to be able to host this viewing of the Monument Quilt.” says Rebecca Jim, a coordinator of the Quapaw display.

Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) Agency was founded in 1997, and has since worked to promote environmental justice in Northeast Oklahoma. It works to educate the community about environmental concerns, and to counter hazards that pose threats to the physical and financial well-being of community members. LEAD Agency has been particularly active in promoting safety and justice at the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

This display is part of a twelve-city tour set to begin this August. The Monument Quilt will visit Arden, NC; Birmingham, AL; Baton Rouge, LA; Quapaw, OK; Des Moines, IA; White River, SD; Fox Valley, WI; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Queens, NY; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

The 100 x 100 foot quilt that will be witnessed this summer is only the beginning. Over the next two years, more and more stories will be added to The Monument Quilt. In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the National Mall with thousands of quilt squares to spell “NOT ALONE.”

For those interested in shaping this nation-wide community art project, there are many different ways to get involved. Survivors and allies can make their own quilt square. People across the country are invited to host quilt-making workshops in their school, community center, place of worship, or town.  You can also volunteer time or donate money to help make this vision a reality. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org.  If you are interested in volunteering at a quilt display, email upsettingrapeculture@gmail.com.