Youth prayed for justice with a three-day relay run through Lakota, Cheyenne and Apsáalooke country after the body of Selena Not Afraid, a sister who went missing for 20 days, was found in Montana on January 20, 2020. Photo by Joanna J. Shane

Honoring Selena Not Afraid

HARDIN, Montana – In honor of missing and murdered indigenous women, a group of relay runners who took off from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on January 24, joined others at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation on January 25, and journeyed through the Crow Indian Reservation for a total 350 miles to Selena Not Afraid’s memorial service here January 26.

A Crow tribal member, Not Afraid, 16, perished from hypothermia, according to officials who found her body on January 20, after friends and family reported she had gone missing from a van at a rest area on New Year’s Day.

Crow Tribal Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid, Jr. formally requested assistance with the investigation into her death from Montana Attorney General Tim Fox on January 22.

“Rural communities across the state often require greater resources and personnel similar to the Montana Department of Justice DCI unit during complex investigations and that is true in this particular case,” the chairman said in announcing his request the following day.

“Selena’s death and the unsolved cases of so many other missing and murdered indigenous people, can no longer be the result of segregated resources and divided communities,” he said.

“A unified approach amongst our communities is long overdue – and it may be the only way to keep our children safe. Let us work together at every level, to bring closure and justice to our region. Selena and her family deserve no less.”

Oglala Lakota Tribe runners running for Selena and all #MMIW ! 💯 They pulled into Ashland around 11 this morning! Kevin...

Posted by Joanna J. Shane on Saturday, January 25, 2020

The chairman, who is Selena’s uncle, collaborated with Oglala Lakota 5th Council Member Rick Gray Grass and Northern Cheyenne President Rynalea Whiteman Peña to facilitate the prayer run for her as well as all missing and murdered indigenous community members. The non-profit Mitakuye Foundation for Lakota youth provided support.

Grassroots mobilization for accountability has spurred community awareness as well as legislative efforts at federal and state levels to coordinate law enforcement resources to improve the justice system for at-risk and tribal citizens and crime victims in Indian country. Nationwide, women’s day marches on January 19 highlighted the issue.

South Dakota Attorney Gen. Jason Ravnsborg has asked the 2020 State Legislature to approve a data base in his office after last year’s session paved the way with passage of “An act to establish the duty to collect data and share information on missing and murdered indigenous persons,” introduced by Pine Ridge Village Rep. Peri Pourier.

The Senate approved the request and sent it to the House of Representatives on January 24. In the U.S. Congress’ pursuit of federal legislation, it established that:

(1) On some reservations, Indian women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average.

(2) American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes—and at least two times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes—compared to all other races. (3) More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women, or 84.3 percent, have experienced violence in their lifetime.

(4) More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native men, or 81.6 percent, have experienced violence in their lifetime.

(5) Homicide is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 and 34 years of age.

(6) Investigation into cases of missing and murdered Indian women is made difficult for tribal law enforcement agencies due to a lack of resources, such as necessary training, equipment, or funding; a lack of interagency cooperation; and a lack of appropriate laws in place.

(7) The complicated jurisdictional scheme that exists in Indian country has a significant negative impact on the ability to provide public safety to Indian communities; has been increasingly exploited by criminals; and requires a high degree of commitment and cooperation among tribal, federal, and state law enforcement officials.


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