PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. (KELO) – It’s common for an Indigenous Person to die on the reservation and leave many questions for family members, but it also happens in South Dakota’s cities as well. 

“She lived in Sioux Falls, she decided to move away from the reservation, probably because of the housing shortage and jobs. She has three boys and one older daughter,” Karen Red Elk said. 

Karyn Blue Bird-Mesteth

Karen Red Elk from Porcupine, South Dakota, is talking about her niece, Karyn Blue Bird-Mesteth. She says for over two months, no one was able to get ahold of Blue Bird-Mesteth while she was in Sioux Falls. 

“Her oldest daughter knew something was wrong because she wasn’t messaging, texting, calling,” Red Elk said. 

In early September of last year, Blue-Bird Mesteth’s daughter went searching for her. 

“Maybe three days later she called me, messaged me and said, ‘I found my mom.’ And she was in the hospital,” Red Elk said. “But she heard stories and people are texting her that she was beaten. Raped and beaten. Beaten, laying in a motel room.”

Blue-Bird Mesteth died in the hospital on September 4 at 38 years old. 

Sioux Falls Police say they had responded to a call of a woman bleeding in a room in the 2400 block of West Russell Street on September 3, 2021, around 9:45 a.m. Detectives and the Minnehaha Coroner’s Office investigated the death. Police say the coroner concluded the death was due to several medical issues.

Red Elk believes there was more that happened to her niece. 

“It was bad, they had to cover up bruises and scars and black eyes and stuff all over her,” Red Elk said. 

Ultimately, the coroner ruled the manner of death as undetermined.  Police say if the death had been caused by another person, the coroner would’ve listed the manner of death as a homicide.

Red Elk wishes she knew more. 

“People that know things that happened should just come out and tell, even if it has to be anonymous. Text in or call in or talk to somebody about it,” Red Elk said. 

Blue Bird-Mesteth was brought back to the Pine Ridge Reservation to be buried with her family by her side. 

“She was a real good, outgoing, funny person. She had a lot of talent,” Red Elk said.