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2018-02-08 / Voices

When MMIW Becomes More Than a Hashtag

BY DANA LONE HILL
OGLALA LAKOTA

Like every Native woman, I am always shocked when another sister is taken, goes missing, is murdered, and raped. It has been happening as far back as Columbus for the women and girls of these beautiful lands in the Western Hemisphere as soon as Columbus set foot. Our most powerful women from history’s tragic lives spun into romanticized tales of Disney films and version of stories often portrayed by white women with painted skin. Rumor has it my great great great grandmother’s own story is depicted in the film Walks Far Woman starring Raquel Welch. My grandmother wasn’t taken but married to a Royal Canadian Mounty back in the day when they went with Sitting Bull’s people to Canada. She left at the first sign of abuse. She had her baby with her whom she later named Lone Hill. Her name was Woman that Stands Against the Wind. She planned and made a long journey, which was often rough at times, walking with a baby back to the northern part of South Dakota. Where coming down from a big hill she began to recognize her family.

Her father named her son Lone Hill, because when he looked up he saw them coming down a hill. She later married a man whose name would later change to Shot in The Eye when he was shot in the eye during the battle at Greasy Grass, where Susie (my grandma) and her sons, Lone Hill, High Wolf, and Rock would fight with her husband and their father against Custer and the Seventh. From this one strong women comes generations of strong, stubborn women. I am one of them. So is my mother and sisters. So is my Aunt Lisa, and her daughter Larissa is my cousin.

This year, on March 16, marks the 23rd birthday of Larissa. No one has seen her since October 2nd, 2016 or heard from her since October 3rd, 2016. She was with her boyfriend on the 2nd, he lived in Rapid City, South Dakota. She saw her mom that day, as she walked away her mother remembers thinking, I should have given her a hug. Larissa had gotten in a fight with her sister and ended up staying at her boyfriend’s house. She said that she was going to the mall with him and one of her friends. The last time anyone heard from her was the morning of the 3rd when she texted she was with two friends from the reservation. The details about her can be read here in the Rapid City Journal.

Her missing persons case, which although she is believed to be dead and buried within a hundred miles of the area is still called a missing persons case, was not publicized until six months later and investigated a month after she disappeared. It is not a homicide case, yet.

I am very vocal about MMIW, Missing and murdered Indigenous women, because it has been going on since 1492. Being the original people here, our cases were never counted and to date are still not. Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota introduced Savanna’s Act to help address the crisis of Native American Missing and Murdered Women. Statistics are ten times higher than the national average for Native women to have their life end in murder and 84 % of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Heitkamp’s introduction of bill S. 1942 she said she will fight for until her days in Senate are done. “You can’t address a problem you don’t acknowledge you have.” The Senator is heard saying in her speech.

My great great great grandmother Susie Shot in the eye back in the 1800’s knew violence against women was not the way native women were raised. You only hit an enemy that way and if it happens once, it will happen again.” She would often tell her grandchildren. She came from a matrilineal society where women were more than mothers and wives, they made important decisions, they were builders, artists, had their own societies, they were landowners, and only women could divorce the men by setting his stuff outside. Men get it twisted these days when they say that our ancestors had wives, they just didn’t have the right to divorce, and they lived with the wife’s family.

These rights were violently taken away when the first immigrants showed up with their land grabs and abusive genocidal acts. They go on to this day against our women, our children, our men. They were taught generations back to our children when they took them from age 4 to 18 and tortured in military style boarding schools, in turn, these acts are committed against each other now and when we leave the reservation.

We remain strong, we survived, and we are here to heal. And for the life of me, every time I share a post or hash tag concerning MMIW, it is as if Larissa is pulling at me from somewhere. I’m here, keep looking. I’m here.

The hashtag MMIW became an obligation I could not ignore. After battling an illness last year, getting past my writer’s block from that, I feel this is long overdue.

Larissa never had the opportunity to pursue her dreams of becoming a veterinarian or doctor. Or really ever even leaving the reservations. Perhaps, if the chance is that she is found alive, she can do that and be reunited with her 3 year old daughter and mother. Her mother wakes every day thinking of her worrying about her, wanting either an end or a beginning.

My sisters and I decided to start a campaign, through a Facebook page called Oyate Ta Icante- Hearts of Our Nation. We will be auctioning off artwork donated by Indigenous artists for reward fund of Larissa which was donated by a community fund in Rapid City, SD-her last known whereabouts. We are hoping if we raise awareness, we can give peace to her family, peace to her mother, and peace to Larissa. I’m here, somewhere she is saying, do not give up on me.

If you would like to donate please make check or money order to:

Community Reward Fund

Care of: Amanda Lee

300 Kansas City Street

Rapid City, SD 57701

With a note that it is for the Larissa Lonehill Reward Fund.

Thank you for reading, don’t forget to like the Facebook page for upcoming auctions and news of Larissa. Oyate Ta Icante.

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Lakota Country Times, Newspapers, Martin, SD