Saturday, June 19, 2021

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From the Interim Editor

We are delighted to have our regular columnist Floyd Braun back with us this week. Welcome back, Floyd!

Frighteningly, Floyd was the subject of a missing persons search last week. While it turns out he was fine all along, I’d like to address some points about why the West River Eagle chose to cover the story the way we did.

First off, given the heightened environment in which any Native person goes missing, it’s impossible to overreact. The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (#MMIR) is so evil and pervasive that we are, each of us, required to treat every missing Indigenous person as an emergency. It can’t be too big of a deal.

Secondly, every family should feel free to raise the alarm and reach out for help, no matter what, no matter who. It’s much better for a family to do so, only to find their relative safe and sound, than for a family to wait to let the community and the authorities know they suspect something is wrong but they are not sure.

To loved ones we say: Don’t wait. Too many families are missing members. Too many sisters and brothers will never come home. The sooner the alert goes out, the more resources can be brought to bear and the better the chance of the person coming home.

And about those resources…the resources needed to search for a missing person and to care for a family in crisis are plentiful. They do not need to be saved for a rainy day. Given the state of the wider emergency, this is the rainy day!

The resources of time, attention, devotion, dedication to detail, reaching out to others, using a special skill, expenditure of expertise, calling in a favor, maneuvering on social media; these are all renewable and sustainable resources because they are human gifts grounded in love and community.

Every missing Indigenous person should get the highest level of response. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is blessed to have very engaged Tribal leadership. Chairman Frazier, Vice-Chair Bob Walters, Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Remi Bald Eagle and their families were all very involved in planning and searching last week. This should be the norm.

The response of CRST ably demonstrates what can go right in the search for a missing Indigenous relative. Tribal leadership and the extended community did a GREAT job mobilizing to find someone thought to be in danger. Every missing Indigenous relative should be that lucky. Every one should be the recipient of generosity of spirit, of time freely given, and of resources brought to bear.

There are people of Cheyenne River who are still missing, or whose murders have never been solved. Let’s hope the good lessons from Cheyenne River will serve as a model in the future. If we can’t figure out what happened to the people we’ve lost, maybe we can at least lessen the likelihood of someone going missing in the future.

One last thing, even though Floyd had been found by the time we went to print, it was out of love and community that we decided to cover the story anyway. We were all agreed; our publisher, our staff, our writers. There was unanimous consensus to cover what happened, and to focus the story on #MMIR using the search for Floyd as the lens.

We could have gone back to original content we planned, but the experience of waiting, watching and wondering was too fresh, too new, to set aside in favor of other news. In the end, we hope our collective experience will somehow keep others from having to go through the same.

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