"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 in 2021 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:
Malinda Cato Later
Hermie Elizabeth Sequoyah Queen
Ollie Cucumber Hornbuckle
Bethna Sue Bradley McCoy
Mary Catherine Haymond
Patricia Louise Mount
Martha Joyce Driver Teesateskie
Banita Jumper Gregory
Carol Deanah McCoy
Marie Walkingstick Pheasant
Eva Blythe Blevins
Update: The Chief's office clarified on May 6th that all of the women are members of the EBCI.