Participants in the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls in Rapid City, South Dakota, on May 5, 2018. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

'No more stolen sisters!': Events raise awareness of the missing and murdered

A story that needs to be told

Mainstream media fails to address numbers of missing and murdered Indians
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY – It’s a story that seems to fly under the radar to the mainstream media. And the Lakota people are fed up with it.

And so over the weekend, dozens gathered in Rapid City for two events to honor and bring light to missing and murdered indigenous women, men and children.

At noon on Saturday, May 5, several families and community members gathered outside of Racing Magpie in downtown Rapid City to hear a proclamation from City Council Member, Darla Drew, on behalf of the City’s support for the cause.

Following the proclamation, families gathered at the Rapid City Public Library for a presentation of a documentary about the MMIW movement. This event was organized by Carla Rae Marshall, whose own family has been tragically scarred by the missing and murdered pandemic.

Also present at the presentation at the public library was the family of Alex “Tank” Vasquez, whose birthday is on May 6 and went missing in Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oct., 2015. The family continues to search.

The family of Alex “Tank” Vasquez attended the missing and murdered events in order to keep his memory alive and continue to ask for help in bringing him home. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

On April 26, 2018 the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, along with other members of congress had passed a resolution marking May 5 the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

In 2016, there were 5,712 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, according to the National Crime Information Center.

The events in Rapid City are part of the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement happening all across indigenous nations which has commanded international attention and a much needed plea for improved safety, investigations, searches and prosecutions in these cases.

Participants were encouraged to wear red to honor those community members whose remains have not been found and justice has not been served in their unprosecuted deaths. The red dress has become an international symbol for the MMIW movement.

Several of the Native American women and children wore traditional ribbon skirts on Saturday, and held signs or wore shirts which identified a family member who is missing or has been murdered. In their faces was held the trauma of a marginalized society who wants nothing more than justice, and for officials to do more to bring their family members home for proper mourning.

Participants in the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls in Rapid City, South Dakota, on May 5, 2018. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

The event to present the Rapid City proclamation was organized by Lily Mendoza, owner of Birdcage Book Store and Mercantile, Founder of Shamus Project, Inc., and Red Ribbon Skirt Society member. During her introduction and greeting to family members outside of Racing Magpie, Mendoza said, “As you know, there is no one reliable national collection point or method to gather comprehensive statistics on the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States.”

“I would like to thank the women of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society. This group was just recently created through the Shamus Project. One of our goals is helping one of the families by gathering items for care packages, down the road maybe help with funeral expenses,” following this statement by Mendoza, a moment of silence was held in honor of missing and murdered indigenous family members. “With gatherings like this across the nation, we’ll continue to shout ‘No more stolen sisters!’”

Invited to present a proclamation on behalf of the City of Rapid City was Council Member, Darla Drew (Ward 5). Included in the proclamation were statistics from the Department of Justice which stated, “…in some tribal communities, Native American women are murdered at a rate that is more than ten times the national rate.”

The Council Member read with astonishment, “homicide was the third leading cause of death for Native American women and Alaska Native women between 10-24 years of age”, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“National attention has been raised on the issue of Hannah Harris who went missing in Lame Deer, MT, in July 2013 and was found dead five days later. It was determined that Hannah was raped and murdered,” said Drew.

Hanna Harris, 21, disappeared from Lame Deer, MT following a day of drinking with friends on July 4, 2013. The single mother of a 10-month old child was found on July 8, 2013 near some Rodeo Grounds on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It is believed Harris was raped and beaten to death; as she was found with “her pants down and her shirt and bra pulled up”, according to the Justice for Native Women website.


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