Rosenda Strong is seen in a photo on social media. The 31-year-old woman went missing on the Yakama Nation on October 2, 2018.

'My sister is coming home now': Native woman being laid to rest after going missing

The remains of Rosenda Strong, a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who went missing last year, have been recovered in Washington state.

According to the Yakima County Coroner’s Office, Strong was a victim of homicide. Her remains were found in an empty freezer on the reservation on July 4.

"My sister is coming home now," her sister Cissy Strong Reyes wrote in a post on social media on Friday, the day the family was informed of the identification of the remains. "I will seek justice for my only sister."

Posted by Help Us Find Rosenda Strong on Saturday, July 13, 2019

Strong was last seen on the Yakama Nation on October 2, 2018. The 31-year-old mother of four had gone to the Legends Casino with an acquaintance.

“She was last seen at Legends Casino with acquaintances that are still walking on this reservation. I see them every day,” Reyes said at a vigil on the reservation on Sunday, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Strong, who also descended from the Yakama Nation, was 31 years old when she went missing. She would have turned 32 on April 16.

"It has been a long heartbreaking journey for our family as we spent every day in turmoil not knowing where our beloved was," Reyes wrote on Help Us Find Rosenda Strong. "Many may say “at least you have closure” yet in our hearts the pain and sorrow is overwhelming. We shouldn’t even be here!"

Tribal and federal authorities continue to investigate Strong's disappearance, just one of countless cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Washington. A new law required the state to identify those who have gone missing for the first time.

The Washington State Patrol Missing & Murdered Native American Women Report, released June 1, identified 56 documented cases of missing Native women, representing 3 percent of the total. Of those, the most came from Yakima County.

"While there are multiple databases, there currently is no centralized database that is all- encompassing of the information necessary to effectively meet the needs of this growing problem," the report stated.

The report identified 50 documented cases of missing Native men, representing nearly 5 percent of the total. The county breakdown was not provided.

Native Americans represent 1.9 percent of the state population so the known data indicates that Native women and Native men are over-represented in the number of missing cases.

The problem isn't just in Washington. According to a landmark report from the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of Seattle Indian Health Board, only 116 cases of missing Native women were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) even though there were more than 5,700 cases reported.

To help address the situation, members of the Native community will gather at the office of the Seattle Indian Health Board on Thursday to enter the names of their loved ones into NamUS. The event, with Abigail Echo-Hawk, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation who serves as the director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, takes place from 5:30-7pm at 611 12th Avenue South in Seattle.

Read More on the Story
Authorities: Body found in freezer near Toppenish confirmed to be Rosenda Strong (The Yakima Herald-Republic July 12, 2019)
Body found in freezer near Toppenish belongs to Rosenda Strong (KVEW July 12, 2019)
"We have her back; not the way we wanted." Body near Toppenish confirmed as Rosenda Strong (The Yakima Herald-Republic July 13, 2019)
Family, friends gather in Toppenish to remember missing woman recently found (The Yakima Herald-Republic July 14, 2019)
Photos: Candlelight vigil for Rosenda Strong (The Yakima Herald-Republic July 14, 2019)
Community remembers Rosenda Strong during candlelight vigil (KIMA-TV July 14, 2019)
Football player wears handprint on his face to bring attention to missing Native women (The Yakima Herald-Republic July 14, 2019)
The remains of a Native American woman who went missing in October have been found (CNN July 15, 2019)

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