SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – People across the country are honoring and remembering the lives impacted by cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Advocates say an important piece in doing that is telling the stories of these victims.
In August of 2016, Sherry Wounded Foot of the Oglala Sioux Tribe died at the age of 50. Doctors told her family she died from a brain bleed caused by severe head trauma. Sandra Graham, Wounded Foot’s daughter, explains what she noticed when she saw her mom lying in the hospital bed.
“I can see fingernail marks on her hands and her arms and I can see bruising, like fingerprint bruising on her legs and her arms,” Graham said. “And it was really odd things that I noticed. That’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Graham suspects her mother was abused. But she never got answers for what really happened.
“I knew it was a crime, I already knew, just something inside me told me what I already knew,” Graham said. “But nobody, it just seemed like it didn’t dawn on anybody or nobody believed me because of where she was found. It was like she was less of a person because she was found in Whiteclay.”
According to a National Institute of Justice Report, 4 out of 5 Indigenous women have experienced violence. And more than half have been physically abused by their intimate partners. The CDC reports Murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous Women.
“The younger girls and the younger boys, they need to realize that they need to stay safe and in contact with their parents,” Graham said.
Though Graham still doesn’t have closure for how her mom’s life ended, she has memories of how her mom lived to carry with her.
“She was a really gentle person,” Graham said. “Talked gentle, like you had to really listen because she wasn’t the type to, you know, over speak anybody or anything like that. She was really a gentle person.”
Sandra Graham isn’t the only person we talked with today from the Oglala Sioux Tribe. On Monday, we will introduce you to Wilma Colhoff in Pine Ridge, who has lost three of her children to violence. She’ll explain how they died and what Colhoff wishes would’ve been done.