HARDIN, Mont. – In honor of missing and murdered indigenous women, a group of relay runners who took off from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Jan. 24, joined others at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation on Jan. 25, and journeyed through the Crow Indian Reservation for a total 350 miles to Selena Not Afraid’s memorial service here Jan. 26.
A Crow tribal member, Not Afraid, 16, perished from hypothermia, according to officials who found her body on Jan. 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 Gen. Tim Fox on Jan. 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.”
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 Jan. 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 Jan. 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
According to her obituary, “Selena was born June 18, 2003 along with her twin sister Zoey to Jacquelena Big Hair and Leroy (Sheila) Not Afraid. She attended Hardin High School where she was a junior; she also attended schools in Billings, St. Labre and Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy.
“Selena was a sweet, silly, fun-loving girl of whom all her many friends referred to her as their ‘best friend’. As twins, she and Zoe’s best friends were another set of twins, Alexis and Katarena Morrison.
“Selena loved horses, beading, sewing, baking and being with family and friends. She shared the love of makeup with her big sister Tristen. Selena loved her horse Wart and she was practicing to be a future Lady’s Indian Relay Race Riding champion for the River Road Relay Team. She was also active in basketball and volleyball. Recently, Selena returned to dancing jingle dress at powwows, something her and Zoe did together.”
She was part of tri-school group called Unreserved, which describes itself as “an empowerment project created to bring together diverse learners to use art and photos to discuss their lives through four themes; heritage, hurdles, happiness, and hope,” adding, “It aims to inform and inspire everyone on their journey.”
Its Facebook administration posted the following comment: “One of her classmates’ favorite things about her was how she would snap her fingers in someone’s face in the halls who looked unenthused, encouraging, ‘Cheer up!’ or ‘Hey, smile!’
“She is STILL snapping her fingers…at US. The state and beyond is, indeed, looking, listening, and loving better, inspired by this one young, resilient, positive, and potent life.”
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor
(Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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