Title of Art Piece: Niicugniluten (Listen)
Category: Multicultural Art – 2024
Student/Artist’s Name: Arianna Leuer
School: Service High School
Grade: 11th
Artist Statement:I made this in honor of my distant relative Sophie Sergie and the Murdered Missing Indigenous Women’s Movement. I don’t have any personal experiences with her, but I am still connected to her through my ancestors and my Native relatives. I understand she was a very caring, humorous, and passionate young woman. In 1993, the time of her death, she was 20 years old and was visiting a friend at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Later that day they found her in the dorm murdered. She had stepped outside for a cigarette and was not seen alive again. This became a nationally famous case.Twenty-Seven years after her death, the man who had murdered her was found through DNA and genetic testing advancements. Once his arrest was made public my grandma called my mom and said ,” Are you watching the news..” my mother responded with “No.” My grandma responded with a shaky tone. “ He was caught. Justice will be served.” Stories just like this have always affected Indigenous people and followed them. I always knew indigenous people were being affected by this topic but never knew it was closer to me than I thought. Recently, while digging into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issues, I sat down with my mom and discussed how I couldn’t personally relate to this matter. She stopped me and said that we do relate, and her name was Sophie Sergie. This made me feel devastated since it is something I am personally linked to. I did a deep dive on her and felt even more devastated. Situations like this make me more passionate about standing up for the lost relatives in my community. Standing up for them, listening and being their voice. Creating art that can capture the need for change is most important to me and has been my motivation since I picked up my first pencil. Creating this piece made me feel content and at peace. It made me feel connected to all the emotions I knew her immediate family felt. I also felt a sense of warmth because I was getting to learn more and more of how her personality was.I chose to paint her smiling in what seems like a yearbook photo because I didn’t want to just show the hurt, I wanted to show her happy, enjoying life, I wanted to encapsulate the best of her presence. I also created a heart on her left of her clothing using my finger prints. I used my fingerprints because the red hand on the mouth is a national sign of the Missing And Murdered Indigenous women and since I wanted to showcase her portrait I created a heart with that sign of MMIW. Not too long ago, I was talking to an Elder a while ago about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Movement, and she told me that once she did an article on the issue and expressed that the women that were going missing or had been murdered would have an unflattering picture of them. The picture would be of a mugshot or a photo that made them look like they were a suspect not a victim. Which would make the women essentially not be a priority.I do believe it has changed my perspective on death, although her life was cut short she has helped make the western society recognize the need for change in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women movement. She has helped people like me create awareness whether that be oral, word, or art. I plan and always have planned on shining my feelings and beliefs in my art. In her honor I have been able to express her essence. With every brushstroke and every handprint. Quyana (Thank you) for taking the time to read my statement.“( The Hunter family on my Papa’s side) come from a long line of Warriors. Men who provide, stand up for their families and protect them.” Sophie Sergie’s physical body is gone but her spirit is alive and she was never forgotten because her step dad made sure that no one forgot who she was and what one of their important values are… family.”- Marissa Leuer, my mother.

Artwork Dimensions: 12 inches wide x 16 inches tall
Original Image