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Polson teen shining light on important Native American issue

September 27, 2016

Marita Growing Thunder makes most of her clothes. (MTN News photo)

Marita Growing Thunder makes most of her clothes. (MTN News photo)


By Jill Valley


It’s hard to be “different” when you’re in high school. But one 17-year-old Lake County senior is stepping out of the “teenage comfort zone” to make a  very adult statement about unsolved murders among Native American women and girls.

Jill Valley found out how she’s sharing that message through art and activism.

Marita Growing Thunder makes most of her clothes — and that sets her apart from other students at Polson High School.

“This is how my grandmas used to dress in high school and I feel this is how I should dress”, she said.

Marita is wearing her regalia her entire senior year, not just to honor her ancestors, but also to honor other Native American women, and girls specifically — the thousands who’ve been murdered or who are missing across Canada and the United States.

It’s an issue that for many that isn’t generating the concern it should — and Marita wants to change that.

“Nobody is paying attention. Some are trying to speak up, but they’re being turned away. It really got me upset and the only way to express my sadness was through my art.” she explained.

Marita’s art includes bead-work and symbols sacred to her culture. She has about 20 different dresses so far this school year.

Her message resonates in the halls of Polson High School, but through Facebook, that message has a larger reach — inspiring people in Montana and across the country.

“A  lady in Oklahoma contacted me, and another is wearing a dress for her cousin. [Salish Kootenai College] is doing one day a week — and so is my mom,” Marita said.

“Marita has always been strong and determined and interested in making a positive impact in the world,” SKC Upward Bound instructor Joanne Morrow told MTN News.

Marita is a strong young woman, bravely taking a stand against unspeakable crimes against women who cry out for justice, “I only have my mother and sister in my life. It hurts my heart to see other people who have not have the feeling of family or of love.”

Click here for  more on Marita’s cause and to learn more about missing and murdered indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada.

Last modified: September 27, 2016