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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On a cool Saturday evening, some three-dozen gathered at Ah-Nab-Awan Park that sits between the Grand River and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids for MMIWG2S event that included speakers and then finally a vigil.

The event was part of a month-long series of activities hosted by the Native Justice Coalition to bring awareness to the serious issue of missing and murdered Indigenous persons.

“We need to shed light on this epidemic,” Cecelia Rose LaPointe (Keeweenaw Bay Indian Community), founder and executive director of the Native Justice Coalition, said. “It’s our job to educate the public about this problem.”

Cecelia Rose LaPointe

Several speakers recounted stories of their own stories of how the issue has affected them on a personal level.

Betty Davis (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), a retired Grand Rapids Public School administrator for the Native American program, recalled talking to a cousin named Tonya recently. Tonya's mother, Monica Bercier Wickre, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa enrolled member went missing April 7, 1993 in Aberdeen S.D.  She was found (murdered) in the James River outside of Aberdeen S.D. in June 16, 1993.  

The cousin told Davis that when her mother first went missing there was a sense of urgency to find her, but as days turned to weeks, their family knew she would be found dead.

Betty Davis

"The case was never solved, " Davis said. "Tonya said there has been no justice and wonders everyday 'only if we would have done...' or 'what if'."

Mariah Eldridge and Rhonda Loonsfoot
Display brings awareness of the epidemic
Mike Medawis (Potawatomi/Ottawa) provided a drum song.
Some three dozen showed their support of the issue.

 

Native News Online photographs by Levi Rickert

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article stated Tonya's mother's body was discovered in North Dakota. She was found (murdered) in the James River outside of Aberdeen S.D.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]