By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – “The Montana Hoops Project” created by Lone Peak High School junior Jessie Bough, premiered on March 17 to a packed audience. Two years in the making, the photo project details two road trips that Bough took in the summer of 2020 with her older brother through rural Montana and the many basketball hoops she found along the way.
Inspired by traveling across the state to compete in volleyball and basketball games, Bough, 16, aimed to convey the spirit of rural Montana with her stark imagery as well as draw attention to the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the state. Mentored by the Red Ants Pants Foundation Girls Leadership Program, Bough said she hopes this project will create understanding and build bridges between rural and Native Montana.
As she took the stage to share her project, Bough was introduced in an unusual way: as if she were taking the court as a starting basketball player. She quipped that she has always had a flair for dramatic entrances, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Bough was a charismatic narrator, taking the audience with her down memory lane into the heart of rural Montana, and of course, Class C basketball.
“It was always my goal to bring authentic, rural Montana to Big Sky,” Bough wrote in an email to EBS. “Basketball is something all small towns in Montana share and being able to show our community what we have in common with other small towns in Montana seemed important.”
To wrap her presentation, Bough left the audience with a simple request: “Please explore Montana with an open heart and open mind.”
In addition to sharing her photography and her own journey, Bough shed light on some recent cases of MMIW and capped the evening with a screening of the new documentary “Say Her Name.”
There are currently 59 missing Indigenous women and girls in Montana, Bough states in her presentation. Native American women are also three times more likely to experience sexual violence compared to white women. The prevalence of Native women who go missing or are murdered has been likened to an epidemic.
“Bringing awareness to an epidemic happening in our state, that of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was another goal and I feel it was super well-received, although a bit hard to swallow,” she said.
Through donations and raffling one of her photos, Bough raised $15,000 for the evening to go towards organizations supporting MMIW.
Read on to learn more about Bough’s project in her own words.