- A 2010 Department of Justice report showed that more than half of native women encounter sexual and domestic violence at some point in their lives, but arrests and prosecutions against their abusers are notoriously low.
- While comprehensive data is difficult to come by, an estimate from the National Crime Information Center showed that 5,712 Native American women were reported missing in 2016 alone, according to CNN.
- The body of Rosenda Strong, 32, was discovered in an unplugged freezer, in an area off Highway 97 on the Yakama Reservation in Washington state on July 4. She had been missing for nine months.
- Here are four other stories of missing Native American women.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
The discovery of the remains of a Native American woman who had been missing for nine months in Washington highlights a disturbing problem among indigenous communities across the United States: Women keep going missing.
The body of Rosenda Strong, 32, was discovered in an unplugged freezer, in an area off Highway 97 on the Yakama Reservation in Washington state on July 4. She had been reported missing nearly nine months earlier.
Thousands of Native American women go missing or are victims of violence every year. A 2010 Department of Justice report showed that more than half of native women encounter sexual and domestic violence at some point in their lives, but arrests and prosecutions against their abusers are notoriously low.
That’s in part because of the lack of coordination and cooperation between tribal police, local police, and the FBI. Tribal police typically have jurisdiction over crimes that occur on reservations, but many tribal forces are understaffed or under-trained.
In April of this year, a the “Not Invisible Act” was introduced in the Senate, which aims to create a new programs within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address the “murder of, trafficking of, and missing Indians.” Hearings on the act were held in June.
While comprehensive data is difficult to come by, an estimate from the National Crime Information Center showed that 5,712 Native American women were reported missing in 2016 alone, according to CNN.
Here are the stories of four Native American women who are still missing.
21-year-old Ashley Loring HeavyRunner was reported missing from Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation in June 2017.
Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, 21, disappeared from Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation in June 2017.
Nine months after it began, the FBI agreed in March 2018 to join the Bureau of Indian Affairs in its investigation into her case.
Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesperson Nedra Darling told ABC News that several persons of interest had been identified, though their names have been withheld from the public.
HeavyRunner’s sister Kimberly Loring expressed disappointment at the FBI’s handling of the case.
“I think if they would have taken it seriously at the beginning we could have found more info and could maybe even have found my sister,” she said.
In December 2018, Ashley’s family testified before Congress about her disappearance. The next day, a set of remains were discovered on the Blackfeet reservation, but subsequent tests revealed they were not those of Ashley’s.
The family is offering a $15,000 reward for any information leading to the prosecution of suspects in her disappearance.
Rita Papakee, 46, was last seen in Tama, Iowa, in January 2015.
Rita Papakee, a mother of four, was last seen walking into a casino in Iowa in January 2015 when she was 41 years old.
Her mother, Iris Roberts, had dropped her off at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino in Tama, Iowa, and hasn’t heard from her since, according to the Associated Press.
Papakee, who is part of the Meskwaki Nation and would now be 46 years old, had been in and out of treatment for alcohol before her disappearance.
“I think about her every day,” her mother told AP. “I pray every night and I pray every morning that she’s going to be found, wherever she’s at. I know I have to take care of her kids. That’s what keeps me going.”
There is a $50,000 reward for any information about her disappearance.
Cecilia Finona, 59, went missing after having an argument with her boyfriend.
- Farmington Police Department.
Cecilia Finona, 59, was last seen on May 30, 2019 at the home she shared with her boyfriend in Farmington, New Mexico.
In court documents seen by the Albuquerque Journal, Finona’s mother said Finona and her boyfriend, Jerry Jay, had been arguing and someone left the house in the middle of the night.
Finona, who is part of thw Navajo Nation, has not been seen since, and investigators believe foul play is suspected in her disappearance.
“The Farmington Police Department is very concerned for the safety of Cecelia Finona,” Chief Steve Hebbe said in June. “Based on Jerry Jay’s actions up to this point, we do believe he is a person of interest in this case and holds information that is extremely important to ensuring her safe return.”
In June of this year, Jay was arrested in New Mexico. Police said he had used Finona’s debit card in Las Vegas and Arizona. Jay has not yet been charged in her disappearance.
10 years ago Alyssa McLemore called 911 and then disappeared.
Alyssa McLemore disappeared in April 2009, from Kent, Washington, when she was 21 years old.
Her family is still searching for her, and appealed for help on the 10-year anniversary of her disappearance in April.
Her aunt, Tina Russel, told KIRO that McLemore told her family she was on her way to the hospital to visit her sick mother on the day she went missing.
Three hours after a phone call to her family, McLemore called 911 in what turned out to be her last phone call. Because the cellphone was not equipped with GPS, it could not be tracked.
“She called 911, and she screamed for help,” Russell said. “There is no way anyone can convince me she left on her own.”
Russell believes that someone knows what happened to McLemore.
“It’s time for you to come forward,” she said. “It’s time to tell the truth and get it off your conscience. I used to say tell us before we die, or one of us dies. But you need to tell us before you die. That’s how I feel.”