SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Many families on South Dakota’s reservations have suffered loss and mourned loved ones taken by violence. If it’s not your family, it’s someone else’s… until such a story directly hits home.
“When you hear the word MMIW, you think of all the murdered and missing Indigenous women, and you never think you’ll have a personal connection but you want to support that cause because it’s a cause that isn’t really highly spoken about,” Starr Walking Eagle said.
“MMIW” stands for missing and murdered Indigenous women. For Finale Night Shield’s family, a personal connection came in January of last year when a burglary turned deadly.
“To everyone, she was a friend,” Night Shield’s cousin Dani Walking Eagle said. “If someone needed a place to stay, if someone needed food or she would take care of our grandkids or our children as they grew up.”
Isaiah Young climbed through a window at Night Shield’s St. Francis, S.D. home early one morning while she was sleeping. Young claims he meant to take a TV or valuables. Instead, he attacked Night Shield and another person with a hammer and a knife.
“As a family, we waited maybe a week or so to finally find out that she had blunt force trauma to the head,” Starr Walking Eagle said. “She had multiple fingers broken, and she was stabbed multiple times.”
Night Shield died of a stab wound to her chest. Young eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the St. Francis crime. A federal judge sentenced him to 40 years behind bars.
Starr and Dani Walking Eagle are sisters and cousins to Night Shield. Starr sat down with KELOLAND News in the community of Rosebud, S.D.; we met Dani in Sioux Falls. They’ll both remember their cousin for the way she lived.
“She would step in and help take care of my son and then step in and take, help take care of my grandchildren,” Dani Walking Eagle said.
“She would never make you wait outside,” Starr Walking Eagle said. “She would take you in, I mean no matter who you were.”
“She also had goals and dreams for herself, for her kids,” Dani Walking Eagle said. “She had one daughter and she had four grandchildren that she wanted to see and help and get them to school.”
Dreams that came to a sudden end when Finale Night Shield was 47 years old.
“You’re filled with anger and sadness and confusion because you finally get to hear somewhat of what happened,” Starr Walking Eagle said. “And you’re just devastated.”
“It’s a tremendous loss for us and for the community because everyone knew they had a place to stay or a meal to eat if she was home,” Dani Walking Eagle said.
KELOLAND.com has a special page dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous persons and families who are seeking answers.