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ROSEBUD, S.D. (KELO) — In July of 2019, two teenagers went missing on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. 15-year-old Alize Millard’s body was discovered in Ghost Hawk Canyon on July 10 while the family of 19-year-old Autumn Emery continued to search for her.

Autumn’s aunt, Michael Garneaux, said her niece, who also went by Waniyetu Loves War, was last seen at the casino, attending a powwow on the Fourth of July. Three days later when nobody had heard from her, she was reported missing to the police. That’s when the family began a search of their own.

“Every day after I got off work– Her grandma went and looked for her during the daytime, I looked for her at night,” Garneaux said.

For nine days Garneaux and her family searched the area between Parmelee and Rosebud, in every spare minute of time they had. At the time, Garneaux said she was told a search and rescue couldn’t be done until the tribal president signed off on it, but they were told he was out of town.

Without the help of police, Garneaux and her family set off toward Parmelee, South Dakota, where they believe she was when she went missing. They tried to look around a house she was seen at, but tribal authorities showed up, informing them that they could not search without police.

“So, we stopped the search because they told us that cops will be called on us, because we were harassing the public if the search went on,” Garneaux said. “We went home, we prayed about it. Our families got together we prayed about it. And I said, ‘No, I’m her auntie, we’re gonna do a search.’”

That’s when they took to social media, calling on members of the community to help them search for Autumn. On the 16th of July, 9 days after Autumn had been reported missing, a group of volunteers began a nearly 5-hour search.

Near this river is where friends and family found Autumn’s shoes.

Four hours in, they received a tip that her shoes had been found near a bridge up the road from Ghost Hawk Park, where they had begun the search.

An hour later, Autumn’s body was found.

Garneaux had been searching in the river when a truck approached with the news. Because Garneaux had also just received a tip saying someone had seen Autumn in White River, she thought that meant that her niece had been found alive.

“I thought she was alive. And then my niece, my other niece came up from behind me and then that girl looked and then she’s like, ‘No, she’s gone.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean, she’s gone?’ And they said, ‘They found her up the road. Let’s go,’” Garneaux recalled.

The distance from Parmelee to Ghost Hawk Park where Autumn’s shoes were found is close to nine miles. Her body was found just a few miles northwest of where her family found her shoes in an area that wasn’t far from her grandparents’ house.

Autumn’s body was found only a few miles away from Alize Millard’s body and Garneaux does not think it’s a coincidence.

Millard was found hanging and his body burned while Autumn’s body had scratches which her family thinks were done by somebody else. Garneaux said that texts Autumn sent her sister before she went missing did not seem to indicate suicide, which is what tribal police ruled her death as.

In 2021, KELOLAND News spoke with Millard’s family who don’t think his death was suicide either. In fact, they believe it was murder and they think they know who did it. Millard’s case is still open as the Federal Bureau of Investigation works to determine what happened.

Autumn’s body was found in this grove of trees, miles from where she was last seen alive and from where her shoes were discovered.

Due to how long she had been outside in the heat, her body became bloated, and it made it hard to determine what had happened.

KELOLAND News met with tribal law enforcement while in Rosebud, but they would not discuss specific cases during our conversation.

“My understanding is that they knew they didn’t send her off for autopsy because they ruled it out as a suicide right then and there, so there was no autopsy done. Specifically, they wanted her cremated, so she got cremated,” Garneaux said. “And what was that? For what? So, we can’t dig her back up to find out exactly what happened to her. Me, personally, I believe that the death that they found the boy prior to her on the night. I believe that they have a connection.”

It’s been three years since Autumn’s death and Garneaux said their family has had no answers.

“No answers, no answers at all,” Garneaux said.

Since Autumn’s death, Garneaux and another relative of Autumn’s have found support in a community of women who are also impacted by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. The group meets in Rosebud to offer comfort, prayers, and support to one another. 

Amber High Bald Eagle was part of the search, as Autumn is her husband’s cousin, and she joined the MMIW support group to prevent things like Autumn’s death from happening to anyone else.

Autumn and her daughter. Photo courtesy: Michael Garneaux

“That can be anybody,” High Bald Eagle said. “I mean, that could be someone’s daughter, someone’s mom, someone’s niece, she’s somebody to someone, right? And to me, it’s like, that could be anybody. That can be my daughter. That could be my sister, that could be my mom, that can even be me.”

For Garneaux, this is the first time she’s spoken publicly about Autumn’s death after years of only speaking with close friends and family.

“We haven’t talked about Autumn, to any kind of public. We stayed back; it was real hard for us to talk about her when people ask, well, ‘We want to hear your story. We want to know what happened?’ It was real hard. It still is. It’s so hard to talk about her. Because it’s fresh. It’s all fresh. I want justice. We all want justice for her,” Garneaux said.

But Garneaux says she isn’t hopeful that their family will get justice for Autumn because of a lack of communication from law enforcement. 

At the time of the search, Garneaux said the group of volunteers searching for Autumn received dozens of tips about where she was last seen and who with. That information made the lack of help from the police much more frustrating.

“There’s so much and our tribe didn’t do anything to help us,” Garneaux said.

Every year since Autumn’s death, Garneaux has led a walk for justice in her memory. 

“In Lakota way we only mourn the four days and then four days after the first four years. And then after that we put, we put it away, but we still remember them, you know, we’ll always remember her,” Garneaux explained. “So, I dedicated the first four years of doing a walk from the gates to where we found her and it’s probably about a two-and-a-half-mile walk. I dedicated that to her, not just for her but for all the MMIW’s that went missing here.”

Garneaux doesn’t want others to go through what her family has and so she wants to remind families to check in on loved ones if they run away. 

“Even if it’s just saying, ‘I’m okay.’ That’s all a family member needs if they don’t want to go home,” Garneaux said. “It’s all that we asked for is the young girls this to say, check in with the family member and just say, I’m okay, I just need my time. You know, that’s all what it takes.”

And the issue of missing people doesn’t just impact Indigenous women, she added. 

“It’s not with just Native American girls, you see all races starting to go missing,” Garneaux said.

That’s why Garneaux wants people, especially young women, to be aware of their surroundings and call police if they suspect anything is off. While people may not think it could happen to them, Garneaux said they should be careful, just in case.