May 5, 2019
May 5 is the day designated to acknowledge and remember the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. The hashtag #MMIW is used throughout our society to bring awareness to the fact we are still looking for women, men, teenagers and children who have gone missing or were murdered on Turtle Island.
Kudos to all of you who walked or ran to remember our missing or murdered relatives on Sunday. Many of you wore red clothing to bring awareness to the MMIW problem in our communities. We appreciate you offering prayers for the safe return of our relatives who are no longer here with us. Please continue to educate one another about how serious the issue of missing or murdered relatives is on Turtle Island.
As Indigenous people, we face a myriad of dangers living in this modern world. Our relatives disappear without a trace more often than we want to admit. For example, our Oglala relatives are still looking for Larissa Lone Hill, a young Lakota woman who disappeared on October 2, 2016. Also missing is Alex Vasquez, who disappeared on October 29, 2015. Someone knows something about what happened to these relatives. Please come forward and share what you know about these disappearances with law enforcement.
Many young Indigenous women have been kidnapped and never seen again on Turtle Island. It’s a sad fact that some of them were later found murdered. One case has been highlighted recently because a cold-blooded killer was granted parole from a 100-year prison sentence.
Standing Rock tribal citizen Candace Rough Surface disappeared in the summer of 1979. In May 1980, her remains were found near the Missouri River. Law enforcement had no information on her murder and the case went cold. In 1995, James Stroh confessed to law enforcement that he and Nicholas Scherr murdered Candace Rough Surface.
Stroh and Scherr were teens when they met Candace at a bar and later took her to a party. Stroh told law enforcement that Candace got angry at how she was treated at the party. Stroh and Scherr left with Candace. They then raped her and both of them took turns shooting her. They then took the money from her purse. They chained her to the back of the truck and drug her almost a mile to the Missouri River where they dumped her.
Stroh only came forward in 1995 because he had previously confessed to family and in-laws about his involvement in the murder of Candace Rough Surface. If he had not gone though a bitter divorce, many of us wonder if he would have confessed at all. Both men took plea bargains in the case. Stroh was released from prison in 2004.
Nicholas Scherr was pardoned from his 100-year prison sentence last week and will soon walk free. Both men were responsible for the rape and brutal murder of 18-year-old Candace Rough Surface. Many of us believe both murderers should have died in prison.
Lakota people are sacred. Kidnapping, sexual assault and murder are crimes. I challenge our tribal, state and nationally elected officials to look at the laws which govern kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. http://www.justicefornativewomen.com/2016/03/the-murder-of-candace-rough-surface.html
MMIW is also linked to the oil industry, including the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Another real threat which comes with the construction of the KXL pipeline is the thousands of workers who will flock to our area for jobs. These workers will need a place to live. Thus, several man camps will be established near the proposed route of the KXL pipeline. Those camps are a true threat with a serious potential to devastate the lives of our people.
Be aware of your surroundings, we live in dangerous times.
Vi Waln (Sicangu Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org