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In the lead-up to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's Month, one Oklahoma family impacted by the crisis has launched a beauty and personal safety line they hope could someday someone's life. 

The line, Skye Woman Beauty, comprises eye shadow pallets, a lip collection and a heart-shaped highlighter pallet; and red-colored keychain canister of pepper spray with UV dye, and a pink, 5.5-inch kubaton that can be used to injure a person or break a window. 

For co-founder Alecia Onzahwah (Shawnee) Skye Woman Beauty is a multipronged family effort to process their grief, help other Indigenous families navigate life after a loved one is missing or murdered, and honor her late daughter, Skye Jim (Shawnee, Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma).

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On Jan. 9, 2021, Jim — a mother of five —was found unresponsive on Brangus Rd near Shawnee, Okla., before a northbound vehicle struck her. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Jim's last known location was her boyfriend's house, and it is unknown how she came to be unresponsive on the road. 

"If my daughter had those things that night, if she had something like a kubaton, she might still be here," Onzahwah said. 

Onzahwah worked tirelessly to find answers, compiling a 100-page binder of phone records and text messages to compare to witness statements. Onzahwah spent months attempting to contact the investigating officers from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Homicide Division, only to be finally told in October 2021, ten months after her daughter's death, that the investigation was closed. 

"When I asked him if he had gotten to review the binder, he didn't answer me," Onzahwah recalled emotionally. "I was mad and hurt — we had done all of that work. I have nightmares and heavy anxiety, and PTSD makes it hard for me to go out in public."

Jim is one of the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous people (MMIP) across Indian Country whose cases are unaddressed or left unsolved due to inconsistent reporting policies, jurisdictional complications, and lack of collaboration between agencies, according to MMIW nonprofit Native Hope.

While there is a lack of comprehensive data available on MMIP, according to a  2022 Congressional Research Service Report, there were 9,560 cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous people reported in 2020 alone.

As Onzahwah and her family fought through their grief and frustration, they launched the Skye Woman Project on the year anniversary of Jim's death as a resource to give other Native families a roadmap to advocate for their loved one after they go missing or are murdered. The project is a compilation of "many sleepless nights"Onzahwah spent researching which questions to ask law enforcement, how to obtain 911 call records and autopsy reports and more. 

"I have a huge family and a lot of support, but for us, it was so lonely and isolating," Onzahwah said. "The least I can do is try to use that information that I've gathered and put it in one place to make it just a little bit easier for somebody going through the same thing."

Onzahwah notes that her family's trauma surrounding her daughter's death is compounded by Jim's prior disappearance in 2006 when she was abducted by a man and a woman and brought across state lines. 

She was found and rescued by law enforcement a week after her abduction. She was 15 years old.  

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"To get her back and only to lose her in Jan unrelated way ..."  Onzahwah said. "I experienced police apathy in those situations. There was no guidance back then, and losing her in January 2021 was another learning curve to figure out what to do."

Skye Woman Beauty is the result of the ongoing fight to get justice for Jim and other MMIW around Indian Country. Onzahwa said it was her surviving daughter, Riann Griggs, that came up with the idea. 

Onzahwah says in the future, Skye Woman Beauty will release self-defense products for men and plans to keep the products affordable.

"It's really important the products are affordable for people to access them,"  Onzahwah said. "We are just a family trying to get by in our grief. And this is what we can offer to help. I want to at least try to prevent another family from going through this and another young person from losing their lives before their time. I believe in turning pain into power."

A portion of the revenue from Skye Woman Beauty will go toward Skye Jim's Justice Fund, which can be found here. 

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About The Author
Author: Elyse WildEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Elyse Wild is senior editor for Native News Online and Tribal Business News.