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No More Stolen Sisters: Eastern Band Memorializes Murdered And Missing Indigenous Women

Courtesy of Principal Chief Richard Sneed's Office
"In observance of MMIW Day a memorial wall has been constructed in front of the council house to remember those who are missing or have been stolen," reads Principal Chief Richard Sneed's Facebook post.

"No More Stolen Sisters."

That’s what the banner outside of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s council house reads today in honor of the national day of awareness for murdered and missing indigenous women.

The color red has become a symbol for indigenous women who are missing and murdered. That’s why red dresses hang alongside the banner. Indigenous women are murdered at a higher rate than white women – as much as 10 times higher than the national average in some counties in the U.S., according to a report by the Department of Justice(DOJ).

Beyond that high statistic, data about indigenous people isn’t well tracked. It wasn’t until 1999 that the DOJ released data pertaining to indigenous people.  In 2020, a law was passed to requires the DOJ to strengthen training, data collection and other guidelines related to cases of murdered or missing Native Americans. This lead to two reports released by DOJ in2021 that focused on advocacy and prevention in collaboration with a Trump administration taskforce.

Now the efforts continue with the Biden administration. Last month, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, announced the formation of a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS).

“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” said Haaland in a press release. “The new MMU unit will provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families.”

Sixteen women who are members of the Eastern Band are memorialized on the wall in Cherokee.

Principal Chief Richard Sneed invites those who want to remember their own loved ones to come and add their names to the wall.

Here are the women’s names:

Jacqueline Davis

Malinda Cato Later

Hermie Elizabeth Sequoyah Queen

Ollie Cucumber Hornbuckle

Bethna Sue Bradley McCoy

Stacy Bigwitch

Mary Catherine Haymond

Patricia Louise Mount

Martha Joyce Driver Teesateskie

Banita Jumper Gregory

Carol Deanah McCoy

Lucy Wildcat

Lucinda Littlejohn

Tamara Seay

Marie Walkingstick Pheasant

Eva Blythe Blevins

Danielle Brady

Update: The Chief's office clarified on May 6th that all of the women are members of the EBCI. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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