Every year an unknown amount of America’s Indigenous women and girls are kidnapped or murdered. Unfortunately, due to neglectful reporting, in 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice only reported 116 missing person cases.

A black fringed skirt decorated with red handprints and ribbon representing those missing women is worn by Joanna Nelson, a Cherokee citizen. She utilizes the commissioned design to address and teach about the issue.

Ribbon skirts and other fashioned items that aid in exposing these sensitive issues that impact most communities are displayed in the fall exhibition Land as Kin. Presented by Fullerton College, Cal State, Fullerton, The Muckenthaler, and Fullerton Museum, they joined together to share the ways of Indigenous existence within today’s society.

Skirts and jewelery are used to tell stories about delicate subjects in a way to bring about healing and change. This skirt depicts the thousands of Indigenous women that go missing or are murdered every year.

Skirts and jewelery are used to tell stories about delicate subjects in a way to bring about healing and change. This skirt depicts the thousands of Indigenous women that go missing or are murdered every year. Photo credit: The Muckenthaler & Joanne Nelson

The idea started from gallery director and Fullerton College professor Carol Henke, who was inspired by the Indigenous culture and their connections to the lands.

“There is so much wisdom that we need as a culture. There’s not enough attention paid to ancestral wisdom. It’s a completely different relationship with the land than the way the colonizers view it. It’s a relative, it’s kin. That’s how we came up with this name,” said Henke.

The city of Fullerton resides upon lands originally shared between the Gabrielino-Tongva and the Acjachemen people, although many tribes are highlighted throughout the exhibits.

Diving deeper into the rich connection between the Indigenous and the land, the poem’s repetitive playback emphasizes “Land as relation, not as a resource.”

Spoken performances by Tongva poets Kelly Caballero and Mercedes Dorame reverberate against the museum walls inviting visitors to get lost in the experience.

Sage lines every window in each room at the Muck. Wrapped in red thread, it represents the cleansing of negative energies to create a healing atmosphere.

Volunteers from the Pechanga cultural center dress name-brand dolls in traditional tribal clothing. They're used to illustrate to young native girls about having pride within themselves and for their culture.

Volunteers from the Pechanga cultural center dress name-brand dolls in traditional tribal clothing. They're used to illustrate to native children about having pride within themselves and for their culture. Photo credit: The Muckenthaler


Amy Redfeather, the curator for the Muckenthaler portion of Land as Kin, is a Pechanga tribal member who draws inspiration from her ancestry and artists worldwide.

“It’s a really wonderful moment to be able to do this show and to also incorporate my family,” said Redfeather, “This show for me isn’t just about one tribe or about just Native California, but about incorporating all tribes, people, and integrating how we are all connected by the land.”

Visitors can better understand and connect with Indigenous heritage with each artist’s work. It shows the contribution Native American culture has played within society and the interaction between the land and one another. It also highlights Indigenous people’s skilled ability to use items such as clothes and paintings to address sensitive issues relevant to all communities.

Before this exhibit closes, Carol Henke encourages everyone to discover a new perspective and better connect to Orange County.

Don’t miss this inspiring exhibit before it closes on Dec. 9th. Visit landaskin.org for more information and to virtually revisit all events hosted by Fullerton College Art Gallery.

“It’s a labor of love from everyone. I’ve learned so many different world views and so much about history and what’s happening now. How it reflects the past, and working to move forward from the horrible past,” said Henke.

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