BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WKBT) - As of 2022, 98 indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been murdered in the state of Wisconsin, and that number only represents those who have been reported.
The 'Heart Spirits' art installation project aims to bring awareness to violence against native women and girls.
Canadian Artist Cheryl Ring brought Black River Falls students and staff together on Wednesday to create ceramic hearts for each of those missing and murdered women.
This installation of Heart Spirits will be the first of its kind in Wisconsin.
Ring says she wants everyone to realize these women are more than a statistic or the 'MMIWG' acronym.
"Within that acronym, there are women, their names, they're human, and they have extended family and community who love them and miss them," said Ring.
Special Education Teacher Connie Helstad was inspired to contact Ring after seeing her installation of ceramic hearts at MSP Airport.
Helstad hopes this project will help create change in the Black River Falls community.
"This is a small project, but we hope that every single year, we will acknowledge the fact that human trafficking continues, that it impacts our indigenous people at a much higher rate than any other demographic," said Helstad. "Awareness is key."
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers also stopped in to help out and talk to students.
He's spent the last couple of days talking to tribal leaders as they gathered for the State of the Tribes.
Gov. Evers says the most important work happens at the local level, but he believes in working together to improve the lives of tribal nations in the state.
"I am a firm believer that tribal nations in Wisconsin are sovereign and that the people that are in charge of that leadership are my equals," said Gov. Evers. "I feel very strongly about this issue, period."
The ceramic hearts made today will be dried and fired in a kiln.
There will be a reveal ceremony on May 4 with an MMIW awareness event at the high school.