Things That Matter

A Cheerleading Squad Honored Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women At Their High School—Without Permission

A group of high school cheerleaders rallied against the violence that indigenous women are subject to everyday in the US. They did so without express permission from their high school. But for these students, honoring missing and murdered indigenous women, was more important. 

Daunette Reyome and her cheerleading squad walked onto the basketball court with red handprints painted over their faces and signs showing Daunnette’s late aunt, Ashlea Aldrich. 

The team wanted to call attention to the many missing and murdered indigenous women whose cases are never solved. The red hands painted over their mouths, Daunette said, represented the people who seek to silence them. 

The cheerleaders held this memorial even after the school refused to give them permission.

“[During] half time, we grabbed pictures of [Aldrich] and stood on opposite sides of the gym and formed an ‘A’ in the middle. We had a moment of silence and showed pictures of her off to our fans,” Daunnette told Teen Vogue. “We presented those pictures to her parents, and myself and my teammates gifted them a blanket and a beaded necklace and beaded earrings.”

Daunnette, who is part of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska told MTV, “My aunt means more to me than a cheer uniform and pom-poms ever will.”

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Sad to say that the remainder of my last highschool cheer season has been cancelled per the school Superintendent and cheer sponsor. They're claiming it's been cancelled due to the cheer squad breaking our "contractual agreement" by having food/drinks on the court & not cheering during timeouts. That is completely false and let me add that we were given cheer contracts but only 1 cheerleader actually turned it in. How can we break a contractual agreement if there isnt even an agreement in place? Last week I brought my plan to honor my aunt Ashlea during our last home game during halftime & bring awareness to #mmiw. Last week the Supt said it was a good idea and then the day before the games tells me I cant do it. He said I cant do it bc a neighboring school said not to do it for their own reasons???? tell me I cant do something that I'm passionate about. Tell me I cant do something nice to remember my aunt. Tell me not to bring awareness to whoever I can about issues of domestic abuse and missing and murdered women. I'm going to show you I CAN AND WILL do exactly what I say Im going to do. I will stand up for what I believe in. I will stand alone if I have to. I wont be silenced by anyone. NOONE. Suspend me. Take back my cheer uniform. Idc. You will never take away my voice! My choice to go against my Supt decision was based solely on my love for my family & passion to change/break cycles of abuse. Not to shame anyone. This is about my aunt, I wished people would stop making about themselves. I Am A #hochunk woman. #peopleofthebigvoice I Am an UmoNHon woman #againstthecurrent ✊✊✊

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She told MTV News she spoke with school authorities a week prior to the basketball game against Wynot Public School; she said that while they were supportive at first, school officials later changed their minds. “That upset me, but it wasn’t going to stop me,” she said, adding that she and her co-captain “decided we wouldn’t allow anyone to be the hand that silences us, no matter the consequences. You’re going to listen to our message.”

In photos Daunnette posted to Instagram, her cheer squad can be seen standing on the sidelines of the basketball court, red handprints across their mouths. 

At one point, they took to the center of the court to display their posters of Daunnette’s aunt Ashlea Aldrich and her sons.

A graduate of Omaha Nation Public School in Macy, Nebraska, the 29-year-old earned a certification in cosmetology and devoted most of her time to her two sons.

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Sometime between Sunday Jan 5th and Tuesday Jan 7th 2020 my auntie, Ashlea Aldrich was tragically taken away from her two young sons, her mother & father, siblings and many other loved ones by the hands of a man that was supposed to love her, protect her & care for her. This man is the father of her two young sons. Im at a loss for words as this hit so close to home for me, too close. Domestic Violence is not our way of life! No woman should ever have to experience, but sadly it happens all too often. I finally fully understand the statement "no more stolen sisters". I used to think it just referred to kidnapping but now I get it. This monster stole a mother from her sons. This monster stole a daughter from her parents. This monster stole a sister from her siblings. This monster stole an auntie from her nieces & nephews. This monster stole her breath, her heartbeat, her LIFE from her. She leaves behind two young sons for her parents to raise but I know they will do a good job just as they did raising my auntie. Ashlea's sister has created a GoFundMe account on behalf of the parents & her sons to assist with funeral costs and expenses for the boys to help them along the way as they go on without their mom. I have posted it in my bio. Anything will help the family, even if all you can offer is a prayer. Thank you – Daunnette #justiceforashlea #mmiw #nomorestolensisters

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“She was a laid-back person, always giving, and so forgiving,” her mother, Tillie Aldrich remembered. Yet while Aldrich had her family’s support in raising her boys, her mother also recalled a pattern of domestic violence —and that Ashlea felt like she had no support from law enforcement when trying to protect herself.

According to news website Indianz.com, Aldrich and her family had reported concerns about domestic violence to Ohama Tribal elders before her death.

Ashlea was among the 84 percent of Indigenous women who have been subjected to violence in their lifetimes. “I wrote a letter to the Omaha Tribal Council in 2017 because I was just fed up,” Tillie said. “And in that letter I said my daughter’s going to end up getting hurt and possibly be killed. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Tillie Aldrich, told Teen Vogue that her daughter’s body was found by a creek in the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska, where the family lives.

Her death is still under investigation according to the family, but Tillie Aldrich said she was told police treated the initial scene as a homicide. Omaha Nation Law Enforcement would not comment on any details, nor confirm or deny any investigation.

Daunnette’s memorial was the first one Tillie Aldrich attended, and she said she was touched by the outpouring of love and support.

Tillie hopes that Daunnette’s demonstration not only calls attention to her daughter’s death, but to the many indigenous women who go missing or are murdered.”I live on a reservation, it’s word of mouth. We can report [someone missing or dead] to the authorities,” Tillie Aldrich said. “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. If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

Native American women are being murdered and sexually assaulted on reservations and nearby towns at higher rates than other American women.

In some U.S. counties composed primarily of Native American lands, murder rates of Native American women are up to 10 times higher than the national average for all races, according to a study for the U.S. Department of Justice by sociologists at the University of Delaware and University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

“The numbers are likely much higher because cases are often under-reported and data isn’t officially collected,” 

The U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, has introduced legislation to improve how law enforcement keeps track of missing and murdered indigenous women. “(Murder and sexual assault) is a real fear amongst Native American women,” said Lisa Brunner, co-director of Indigenous Women’s Human Rights Collective and professor and cultural coordinator at White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen, Minnesota.

That’s what Daunnette said she hopes her cheerleading team called attention to.

“I want people to know it’s more than just a red handprint over your face,” Daunnette said. “It’s an actual problem in our community. Our women go missing every day, and a lot go with their cases unsolved and unfound. It is a big problem in Indian Country. It is something I feel like needs to be talked about.”

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