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North Coast tribes march for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons' Awareness Day


Northern California tribes march for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Day in Crescent City.
Northern California tribes march for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Day in Crescent City.
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Members from Norther California's Yurok, Karuk, Round Valley and Hoopa tribes joined the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation in Crescent City Friday where they all marched together with one common goal: to raise awareness for their missing and murdered friends and family.

In 2021, President Joe Biden named May 5 National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons' Awareness Day in an effort to bring light to the disproportionately high rates of homicide, kidnapping and violence among indigenous people.

"1.5 million women will experience violence in their lifetime, and four out of five times, it's native women," Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation Public Relations Manager Emily Reed said.

For many of the individuals who marched, the hope was that saying the names and showing the faces of their missing and murdered loved ones would help keep their cases alive and maybe even lead to resolution one day.

"That is what we're walking here today is to bring more awareness to the situation and hopefully get some of these cases solved," Tolowa Dee-ni' tribal member Lisa Richards said.

Because of the jurisdictional gray area that California tribes find themselves in, cases can easily slip through the cracks, and many go unsolved for years or more.

"It's kind of on the reservation or off the reservation and nobody except family has really looked for him," tribal member Kat Conrad said in reference to her friend, Virgil Bussell, who went missing out of Weitchpec in 2020.

Because California is a Public Law 280 state, state law -- including homicide and kidnapping -- falls under the jurisdiction of the county where a tribe is located. But because tribal police are given limited authority, tribal cases sometimes lack the same amount of attention than that given to non-tribal cases where police departments and the sheriff's office are both able to fully investigate and enforce the law.

"He's more than just the picture," Yurok Tribe member Emily Cripe said of her father, John Davis, who went missing out of Covelo in 2021. "That's what we're all here to show is that we just want to bring him home. We need closure."

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