Another missing Native American woman has been positively identified and another autopsy report is pending. On Monday, January 20, officials confirmed that a body found earlier that day was that of missing teenager, Selena Not Afraid, who was last seen on January 1. As editor, it was my task to release this information as breaking news.
Just a few days earlier, on January 8, I reported a similar instance when the Pierre Police Department confirmed that they had positively identified Lola Bear Stops’ remains after it was found along the banks of the Missouri River on January 6.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement is real and it matters. According to indianlaw.org, 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence. Alaskan Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States.
Last March, the nation was horrified when the dismembered remains of Tammy LaFramboise, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was discovered in Michigan, hundreds of miles from her home in Yankton. The nation now watches as Stephen Robert Falkenberg is on trial for her murder, charged with second-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter.
In my own life, I have known four women in my family and community who have been murdered or who have gone missing: my aunt, who was murdered by her husband, a non-tribal member; a former sister-in-law, who was murdered by a non-tribal member; a community member, who was killed by her husband, a fellow tribal member; and lastly, there is Sharon, who was only 12 years old when she was abducted by suspected serial killer, Royal Russell Long, in 1984. Sharon has not been seen or heard from since.
I think of these women often, and am disheartened and appalled by the statistics of violence, murder, and rape among Native American women in both the United States and Canada.
What can we do to protect the women nation? How do ensure that their future, that our future, as matriarchs and clan grandmothers is secured? How do we ensure the safety of our young women? There are many different ways to begin answering these questions, and I for one, believe in giving voice to those whose voices have been silenced.
As a writer, as managing editor, I will continue sharing the stories of my aunt Emma, my sister-in-law, my neighbor, and of Sharon. The MMIW movement has gained national attention and we must continue on this journey of bringing awareness to the plight of our women.
Direct action, walks, and demonstrations such as the one that took place at the corner of Hwy. 212 and Main Street in Eagle Butte on Monday, January 20 are vital to educating the nation, our neighbors and friends about the epidemic that impacts many families, including my own.
Despite brutally-cold winds, the group remained, and for that, I am thankful. Let us continue to be the carriers of the light that shines in the face of darkness, and may our actions bring justice, awareness, and a better future for our women nation.