SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Advocates for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women say an important piece in raising awareness is telling the stories of the victims. And it’s not just women who are impacted by this issue.
In the span of 11 years, three of Wilma Colhoff’s children were killed on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The first was her daughter Shelly Poor Bear in 2005.
“After they beat her, they drove up about a quarter mile from where they beat her and threw her out of a truck and then backed up and ran over her. And just left her there for dead,” Colhoff said.
Only one person was charged with Poor Bear’s death and sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison.
In 2012, Wilma’s son, Daniel Bad Milk was killed.
“He was beat to death with a bat,” Colhoff said.
Antoine Bissonette was sentenced to five years for his death. Last year, Bissonette was charged with killing another person.
“And this is my baby girl who was shot three times by a man. Close range in her chest and abdomen in 2016 right at her home,” Colhoff said.
Annie Colhoff’s killer was sentenced to 12 and a half years. Wilma wishes there was more justice for her three children.
“You know, Indian kills an Indian, three years. Indian kills a Wašíču (Lakota/Dakota word for people of Western European descent), fifteen, thirty, forty years,” Colhoff said. “I just don’t think justice is good.”
The violent deaths of her three children still cause a lot of pain, but Wilma knows she needs to live for her other children and grandchildren.
“I can’t really let myself think about them in that type of way, how they were murdered,” Colhoff said. Because if I do, I’ll probably end up in an insane asylum or dead myself. So I always think of the good times that we had together and where they’re at right now and how happy they are together and that keeps me going.”
In South Dakota, there are 46 missing women according to the state clearinghouse. Thirty-two of those women are Indigenous.