One of our Cheyenne River teens has penned an essay about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/Relatives; while he wishes to remain anonymous, his voice needs to be heard.

(Pictured here: Cheyenne River Lakota artist TamiJoy with her MMIW/MMIR-inspired art at RedCan 2023.)

Híŋhaŋni waste or Anpetú waste (good morning or good afternoon), depending on what time you’re reading this. I am a Lakota teenager from the Mnicoujou and Hunkpahpa bands of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. I am writing this essay to share my views on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/Relatives from a young man’s perspective. 

In our culture, women are the core of our people, and they play a big part in our ways of life. It is really sad to see our Native people, especially our women, be hunted in this so called “free country” and “home of the free.” I am very glad I haven’t lost any of my female relatives yet, but I did lose my nephew to murder. He is part of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, and it’s been hard, especially when I grew up with him. He was like an older brother to me. 

Seeing all these signs, “Missing” posters and social media posts about our missing and murdered sisters really hurts my chante (heart), because I lost a sibling to suicide six years ago. The anniversary of her death is June 30, and I feel it gets harder and harder every year because I miss her dearly and would do anything to get her back. She always took care of me and cared for me, and she was always the person I could run to when I felt alone or when I felt sad. She was that person for me, and to lose her to suicide really hurts — but it would’ve been worse if she had been a victim to MMIW. I can’t imagine how those mothers and family members feel, because they won’t see their daughters again or even know where their daughters are. 

When we attended a MMIW event in Rapid City this past May, it hurt to see those people grieve and be in pain because they don’t know where their daughters and sons are, or because they know they can’t see them ever again. When I went to Washington D.C. this spring, we visited an art museum, and I didn’t think in a million years I would ever see a MMIW poster outside of the rez. To see a MMIW poster for one of our missing winyans (women) off the rez and IN A NATIONAL ART MUSEUM really made my chante happy because I know she has a better chance to be found. Now, a lot of people know she is missing. 

Being Indigenous means a lot to me. I’ve been to a lot of states and a lot of places where I was the only Native kid there. To have everyone look at me, or to have people say their grandparents were this and that, really is a mix of emotions for me, but I am proud to be Native American, especially to be Lakota and to be a descendant of two great Lakota chiefs, Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse. Being related to them pushes me through each day. I know they fought for me, for my people to be free, and for us to be able to practice our culture and be proud to be Native.