Things That Matter

The Remains Of A Woman From The Umatilla Indian Reservation Have Been Found In A Freezer

In the United States, violence against Indigenous women has climbed at a staggeringly higher rate than the ones acted out on women who are non-Indigenous. According to reports, 84% of Indigenous women will report having experienced some act of violence within their lifetime. Within this number, 56% of women will experience sexual violence and 55% will be violated by a romantic or sexual partner. In 2016, the National Crime Information Center revealed 5,712 reports of Native American women who had gone missing. And yet, according to advocates, tracking the number of missing indigenous women cases is nearly impossible. Primarily because many of the databases keep track of these women are outdated.

In other words, thousands of Indigenous women go missing and forgotten each year due to a lack of diligence and training by law enforcement.  Last year, Cissy Strong Reyes’s sister Rosenda Strong went missing. Her fight to ensure her sister did not become a part of these statistics ended this week when the body of Rosenda was found in a freezer. 

Rosenda Strong, a 31-year-old, went missing in October of last year. 

The mother of four went missing in October of 2018 in Toppenish, WA after last being seen leaving the Legends Casino in the area.  Strong, who is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and a descendant of the Yakama Nation, had been declared missing ever since.

Last Friday, after nearly a year-long fight to find her sister and bring her home, Rosenda’s sister Cissy learned of her sister’s brutal murder 

At this HEARTACHE time please no questions to my family…. But MY BABY SISTER Rosenda Strong REMAINS FOUND IN A…

Posted by Cissy L. Reyes on Friday, July 12, 2019

“My baby sister Rosenda Strong’s remains found in a freezer. Yes, it has been confirmed to me this morning from the FBI agent working on my sister’s case,” she posted to Facebook. “We have her back, not the way we wanted, but we can after 275 days of looking, wondering, our baby sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend is coming home to our mother….Now we can finally lay my sister to rest.”

Rosenda’s death has been ruled as a homicide, with the cause of death still under investigation. 

According to reports, the Yakima County Coroner’s Office identified Rosenda’s remains which were found in a freezer in the Toppenish area on July 4.  The Seattle Times reported that two homeless men found Rosenda’s remains in an unplugged freezer. Yakama Nation tribal police and the FBI responded to the discovery of the body because the remains were found in the Yakama Nation.

According to the local KIMA-TV station, Rosenda’s family and friends gathered with her community for a candlelight vigil in her memory on Sunday evening.

According to KIMA-TV, many used the vigil as an opportunity to honor Rosenda and raise awareness of missing native women. During the vigil, Rosenda’s sister Cissy recalled “She’d always make me look in her eyes and she said, ‘I love you. I’ll be back, okay?’ And I said okay, love you. And she walked out the door. That was my last memory of her.”

Should you have any information on the Rosenda Strong case, please call the Yakama Nation Police Department at 509-865-2933 or the FBI at 509-990-0857, citing case number 18-010803.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Fierce

Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Image Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle

On Monday, the House of Representatives finally passed a bill called “Savanna’s Act”, a measure that will require the Justice Department to develop a protocol in response to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women that is crippling native communities across the country. It is now headed to the president’s desk, waiting to be signed.

The bill was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman of Indigenous descent who was murdered in 2017 when she was eight months pregnant. 

According to CNN, the bi-partisan bill is designed not only to create better guidelines for authorities to respond to this pervasive problem, but also instructs the Justice Department to “provide training for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.” 

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “[It] helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans.”

From now on, the Justice Department will also be forced to provide an annual report on the numbers of missing Indigenous women–numbers that are, right now, unclear.

According to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member Tillie Aldrich (whose daughter was found dead in January), the historical lack of government response to the issue of violence against Native women boils down to structural racism. 

“If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it’s all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up,” Aldrich told Teen Vogue. “If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

via @R_OWL_MIRROR/TWITTER

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a pervasive but underreported problem.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 missing Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls were reported missing in 2016. Only 116 of them were registered in the Department of Justice database

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center database reports that Native American and Alaska Native women made up 0.8% of the U.S. population, but made up 1.8% of 2017 missing persons cases.

And these statistics only reflect the reported number of cases. Many native people have feelings of hopelessness when it comes to reporting their missing loved ones. They know that authorities won’t even try to find their missing family members.

Both family members of Indigenous people as well as Indigenous activists explain that there is a general attitude of apathy, victim-blaming, and lack of urgency when it comes to the local government’s response to these missing women. 

“When no one in authority looks for a missing woman, it sends a strong statement to the families and to communities that this life doesn’t matter–it is an expendable life,” said University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer to Teen Vogue.

“Victim-blaming is often a part of this dynamic,” Deer continued. “If she’s done X, Y, or Z–no wonder she got caught up in trouble. Unlike an innocent white college girl, this Native woman doesn’t deserve prioritization.”

But as of now, activists and organizers are hopeful that Savanna’s Act will change the way government institutions respond to this all-too-common problem. 

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women are no longer invisible. They are no longer hidden in the shadows,” said former North Dakota Senator and bill co-sponsor Heidi Heitkamp. “By raising awareness about this crisis and taking concrete action to help address it, we can help make sure Indigenous women are better protected.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Fierce

An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Janis Christie / Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that an ICE detention center in Georgia was performing mass hysterectomies on migrants without their consent. The allegations came from a nurse at the facility along with numerous detained migrants and left many people shocked.

However, the U.S. has a long history of forcing people – especially people of color – into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics.

Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”

An ICE nurse and several migrant women allege that a doctor is removing women’s reproductive systems without their consent.

According to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, a high number of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., are receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment. She alleged about one doctor that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy,” and that he removed the wrong ovary from one young detainee.

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his speciality, he’s the uterus collector,” Ms. Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the center to “an experimental concentration camp,” adding: “It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”

The same prison has also come under fire for its medical practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Project South said the complaint alleges “jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19.”

It summarizes the disclosures Dawn Wooten made to the DHS’s watchdog, and quotes unidentified detainees extensively. Covid-19 complaints included staff refusing to test symptomatic detainees, failing to isolate suspected cases, and not encouraging social-distancing practices.

For their part, ICE says to take the reports with skepticism.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative released this statement to Law & Crime News in response to the complaint: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Women in ICE custody have long been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Credit: Getty Stock

Immigrant detention centers have long been accused of subpar medical care. However, the issue has become even worse amid the pandemic. The report filed by Project South describes how migrants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and even thrown into solitary if they advocate for basic human rights. But even before the outbreak, immigrant women’s bodies have always been the target of medical malpractice and cruelty.

ICE has allegedly denied treatment to detained women with cancer, brain tumors, and breast cysts, and it has a history of policing their bodies. The Trump administration has been accused of tracking migrant girls’ periods to prevent them from getting abortions, introduced a policy to deny pregnant women visitor visas, and literally ripped mothers apart from their babies during family separation. Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, said women held at ICDC have said they are not given clean underwear which leads to infections and rashes.

She said detained women, who are mostly Black and brown, are in extremely vulnerable situations in which “they have no control over their bodies.” “It’s a very exploitative situation,” Shahshahani said of the hysterectomies. “There does not seem to be informed consent … they had pretty much no say in what exactly took place.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com