2017-05-18 / Front Page

Numbers Of Missing And Murdered Is An Epidemic On Pine Ridge


“Groups from far and wide came to Pine Ridge to raise awareness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women” “Groups from far and wide came to Pine Ridge to raise awareness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women” PINE RIDGE –More than 100 people gathered at the Sacred Heart Church hall to speak out about their loved ones who went missing or were murdered. Many tears flowed with the talks and the wiping of tears ceremony as family spoke of their experiences and trauma.

The event was held in conjunction Senate Resolution 60 designating May 5th as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. The resolution was passed on May 3, 2017 and calls on the people of the United States and interested groups to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women who cases are documented and undocumented in public records and the media and to demonstrate solidarity with the families of victims in light of their tragedies. The national resolution was sponsored by seven senators, two from Montana whom asked the May 5 resolution for Hannah Harris, a young Northern Cheyenne mother, who went missing and was found raped and murdered. Her birthday is May 5th.

“Groups from far and wide came to Pine Ridge to raise awareness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women” “Groups from far and wide came to Pine Ridge to raise awareness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women” The event at Pine Ridge was held for families who had missing and murdered women and also included children and men. A list of names of 16 was compiled by the organizers of tribal members who went missing and were murdered. Today, two tribal members Larissa Lone Hill and Alex Vasquez are still missing. In the last five years, there has been a number of women who have went missing and were found murdered.

A four direction walk was held and the group met at the church meeting hall, where a wiping of tears ceremony was held for about 25 mourners from the families. Four jingle dress dancers, the tribe’s royalty and Miss Black Hills danced in their red jingle dresses for the mourners for healing. Many wore red on May 5th, red is for the strength of women and for loss of the women who were murdered in acts of violence.

Suzanne Kills Back, spoke of her little sister, Sharon Kills Back, who was abducted 32 years ago. She was found murdered in Texas. She told the families in mourning, there is hope for closure and to remember to keep in prayer. It took 20 years and six months before her little sister’s killer was found.

Darla Black, Oglala Sioux Tribe’s vice president, held the wiping of tears ceremony for the mourners and spoke of the need for awareness and education. Recently, a young Lakota girl was almost abducted near Rapid City when she tried to catch a ride home to the reservation. He was a truck driver but she managed to get away and find safety.

Larissa Lonehill, 21, was last seen on Oct. 2, 2016 in Rapid City. She has not been heard from since. Lisa Lone Hill, mother of Larissa, who attended the event said, “I miss my daughter every day and hope they will be able to find her.”

Donna Salomon, Oglala Sioux Tribe’s secretary, spoke as the family of Jessie Waters, who died on April 30, 2015. Jessie was with child and a young mother with two sons, a very caring woman. “How she was taken from us is what hurts the most,” said Salomon.

Also attending the event was Sam Long, father of Hannah Harris, he spoke of the pain of losing a loved one and said Hanna would be 25 years old on that day. He spoke about what Hannah loved to do, fancy dance, rodeo, was making plans to join the military. We chose today to honor and remember our loved ones on this day. He said all over people were doing events such as this for awareness and to remember them. In Lame Deer, a walk and event was also being held in memory of Hannah.

Also present at the event, were two miniature dresses representing Emily Blue Bird and Hannah Harris. The traveling display is being developed by Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains as one of their projects to build awareness and education in grassroots communities of missing and murdered Native women and the epidemic of high numbers and need for the development of protocol families can turn to when a loved one goes missing. Native women are murdered or go missing at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. On some reservations women are murdered at a rate of 10 times higher than the national average. We need to keep saying their names and seek justice for their family. Their lives mattered, said Amanda Takes War Bonnett, education specialist for Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. There is no real data on the number of women who go missing in Indian country, we need to be their voice, she said.

Karen Red Star, the tribe’s health education director, who collaborated with the tribe’s employee assistances program, the vice president’s office, Sacred Shawl Society and OST Victims Services to organize the event, also drafted a proclamation that was signed by the president of the tribe. The proclamation declared May 5 as a day of remembrance for the Murdered and Missing Native Women, Children and Men of the Oglala Nation. The proclamation calls upon tribal members, organizations, law enforcement and health officials to seek actions to honor, seek justice and demonstrate solidarity with the families of victims and to develop a tribal community response when a woman, man or child goes missing. Also to hold the day of May 5th as annual event of awareness.

The theme of the day of awareness is ‘We will stay strong’, Hecel Wasagyah Unyapi kte. Red Star emphasized the need for awareness and education. When trauma happens within a family, losing a loved one, it has an effect not only the family but the community. It can be crippling to not only family but the tribe.

For more information contact Karen Red Star, Oglala Sioux Tribe Health Education at (605) 867- 2067.

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