Letters to the Editor -- Feb. 15, 2018

Dear Smoke Signals:

We would like to thank Smoke Signals for recently increasing awareness about missing and murdered Native women with the October 2017 article about Heather Cameron (Haller).

People and communities are looking for meaningful change and justice for victims and families. There is a national movement and this movement has gained momentum with the introduction of legislation intended to combat the epidemic. Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average and 84 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetime. The bill, Savanna’s Act, is named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Grewind, who was tragically killed in August 2017.

A family member reached out to Councilwoman Brenda Tuomi, who was recently recommended to the Domestic Violence board. She replied that if we had a proposal we should present it. We met with Tribal Council on Feb. 1 and we appreciate the time they took to listen to our perspective. At this meeting, we did present council with a “sample” resolution as a proposed starting point.

Heather is not the first Grand Ronde Tribal member lost to murder and sadly she will not likely be the last.

We continue to pray that Tribal Council is forward thinking and strong leaders in this movement. We know this will take huge political will. We hope for strong action to ensure the lives lost and destroyed are not a mere statistic and the families that are left behind by this tragedy are not forgotten. We are asking Tribal Council to work diligently at the Tribal, state and federal levels, including proactive participation and response when we have or suspect to have a Tribal member who is missing and presumed murdered.

It has been a long and heartbreaking five years for Heather’s family and friends. Anyone who read Heather’s 911 calls knew she had been murdered. Heather’s young children have certainly endured the greatest struggles with the loss of their mother. With Heather officially listed as only “missing,” her children were not eligible for state services. Our family has tried to help where we could.

We sincerely want to thank those who have reached out to the family with encouraging words of support and offers of help. A special thanks to the beautiful Tribal ladies for taking Heather’s photo and story with you to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March in Seattle.

Hayu masi,

Tonya Gleason-Shepek & Heather’s family

Roll #1282