Custer County is American Indians’ Ferguson: The Story Won’t Make It to CNN

Melissa Goodblanket - Seeking justice for her son who was shot 7 times by law officers in Custer County

Melissa Goodblanket – Seeking justice for her son who was shot 7 times by law officers in Custer County


In the aftermath of Ferguson, I am reminded of Custer County.

On Monday night, the nation waited for the grand jury’s decision on whether or not Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would be indicted for the August 2014 killing of teenager, Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen.

By mid-afternoon Monday, it was announced the grand jury had reached a decision. However, the nation was to wait until evening for the county prosecutor to announce the decision. CNN and other cable networks were on hand as suspense mounted as the evening progressed into prime time.

CNN had numerous correspondents positioned at various intersections of Ferguson as the crowd increased on the cold November night.

Those of us who concern ourselves with social justice issues were not surprised by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson. In America, we know the decision not to indict was very predictable.

After the decision was announced, CNN’s televised images of tear gas smoke rising up through the red and yellow lighted “Season’s Greetings” sign near the Ferguson police headquarters  seemed an oxymoron for the whole world to see. Short of the destructive violence and looting that erupted, the sign was almost laughable.

Since August, CNN has expended many hours covering the Ferguson case of the white police officer killing the black youth.

Black and white issues have long captured the attention of the media. Conversely, red and white issues seldom do. Maybe they forget we still exist.

Mah-hi-vist "Red Bird" Goodblanket shot seven times.

Mah-hi-vist “Red Bird” Goodblanket shot seven times.

Since Monday night, my mind keeps going back to the tragic death of Mah-hi-vist “Red Bird” Goodblanket, a tribal citizen of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, who met his young and untimely death under similar circumstances of Michael Brown.

He was killed by Custer County law enforcement four days before Christmas last year.

One Friday evening, his parents called 911 when Mah-hi-vist, who had been diagnosed with Oppostional Defiant Disorder four years previous to being killed, was experiencing an episode associated with his medical condition.

The police were called so that the teen would not harm himself—or so his parents supposed.

Two Custer County sheriff deputies, Avery Chance and Dillon Mach, initially responded and entered the Goodblanket home in Clinton, Oklahoma with two Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers. Within moments of entering the home, the teen was shot to death by law enforcement officers.

The county sheriff department claims the teen threatened officers with a knife. The family disputes this account and maintains the youth was unarmed.

Goodblanket’s autopsy report findings indicate the teen was shot seven times with wounds to his head, torso, and right upper arm. Goodblanket was also shot two times by a taser gun.

The officers were cleared by the local district attorney in Custer County.

Remembering Mah-hi-vist’s death was similar to Michael Brown’s in that they both were non-white teens killed by white law enforcement officers, I contacted Melissa Goodblanket, Mah-hi-vist’s mother on Tuesday.

She wrote me back this message:

“In our son’s case, the deputies were justified by the local DA here in Custer County, Oklahoma and further the sheriff granted support for the two named in the shooting (murder) of our son to receive awards of valor for their heroic behavior. This is sickening and is the same mentality that took so many lives at the Sand Creek Massacre 150 years ago.

Our family will be active in the Sand Creek healing run beginning November 29th. We participate in honor of our fallen son, Mah-hi-vist, who participated in these very events on two separate occasions. As direct descendants of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Little Raven, we participate to remember the sacrifices of our relatives. We participate to seek healing.”

The Goodblankets have held a couple peacefull rallies seeking justice for their son’s killing. There has been no looting or burning down of buildings in the name of justice for Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket.

No CNN won’t cover the story of the killing of a Native youth who can never live his future.

American Indians all across Indian Country should remember Custer County is our Ferguson and say a prayer for healing for the Goodblanket family and for America’s sick racist society.

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