Elon University sophomore Aubee Billie is a member of the Seminole Tribe in Florida. She said crimes toward Indigenous women are often overlooked, and this issue affects how they can live their lives.
Billie doesn’t wear her traditional clothes in fear that someone may harm her in some way, shape or form. This, however, is a norm for many native women, Billie said.
“It is sad that we cannot live our lives the way we want to,” Billie said. “It is sad and frustrating that this is our reality as native women.”
The Native American Student Association hosted a fundraising event to spread awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women May 4.
Crystal Cavalier-Keck from the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation recognized that Elon University is built on Occaneechi Tribe land during the event.
Billie shared her own experiences as an Indigenous woman. She told the story of Ashlynne Mike, an 11 year old girl from the Navajo Nation who was killed in 2016. She was tricked into going into a man’s car saying he would take her home. He took her past her house and off onto a dirt road south of Shiprock, New Mexico. Her father contacted the police when he discovered she was missing. However, he was put on hold for eight hours before an Amber Alert was sent out. By the time they found her, she was killed.
Billie said this was one of the many examples of how American society has turned a blind eye to this issue. She reported that in 2016, 5,712 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were reported. However, only 116 of these cases were logged into the Department of Justice basis.
Cavalier-Keck discussed how American Indians are often placed last by law enforcement. She discussed a case where it took a decade to find the killer of an Indigenous woman while it only took two years to find the killer of a white woman. She said this is because of a common stereotype that native people are disposable and are treated like they don’t exist anymore, which makes many cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women swept under the rug.
According to Cavalier-Keck, the FBI reported 5,203 cases of missing girls and Indigenous women in 2021. She also said Indigenous women are more likely to be victims of rape, sexual violence and abuse form intimate partners. One example she talked about was Kayla Hammonds and how she was a case of domestic abuse. Kayla was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend following physical abuse from him.
“He would beat her and she would go file a restraining order against him and he would get arrested," Cavalier-Keck said. “48 hours later, he would bond out of jail and intimidate her all over again.”