On July 5, 2013, Hanna Harris, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, was reported missing by her family in Lame Deer, Mont. After search efforts by community members and law enforcement, she was found dead five days later. While there was some coverage of the disappearance and death of Harris, the media initially took the opportunity to focus on her use of peyote for ceremonial practices or to suggest her death was the result of drug use.
The Lame Deer tribal authorities were initially responsible for taking the missing persons complaint and assisting with the search, and according to the family were not quick to act (the authorities have not responded to Salon’s request for comment). The FBI, which has federal authority over reservations in cases of murder, has said it needs more information and testimonies from others before being able to move forward with the Hanna Harris case. So Harris’ family developed a reward fund in an attempt to entice witnesses and those with information to come forward. The efforts of the family have allowed the investigation to remain open and ongoing.
Hanna Harris matters and deserves respect, as do the hundreds (possibly thousands) of indigenous women who have also gone missing and murdered. Unfortunately, Harris’ story — a death so far uninvestigated by government authorities — is ubiquitous among indigenous people. A year ago my co-worker Laura M. Madison and I launched the Save Wiyabi Map, a project to keep track of missing and murdered sisters. In that time, we have tracked 1,050 violent incidents involving indigenous women — women who have disappeared, or who have been found dead.
Read more over at salon.com.