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Grieving family of 27-year-old mother draws attention to missing Indigenous women


OAKLAND, Calif .– The family of Bessie Walker – a 27-year-old mother who went missing for weeks before she was found dead in August – held a rally on Tuesday, drawing attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women, who did not receive hardly the same media coverage or the same police response as missing white women.

“We spent hours and nights without sleep looking for her,” Ruby Rodriguez, Walker’s older sister, said at a protest and at a press conference. in Oakland. “We don’t have peace.

“My family just wants answers. They want justice, ”Rodriguez said, crying. “How is it that no arrests have been made?” “

Rodriguez was surrounded by about 20 of Walker’s family and friends, as well as Indigenous organizers and allies who wore bandanas with the letters MMIW – for missing and murdered Indigenous women – and t- shirts that said, “No more stolen sisters.” Rodriguez’s two young children were holding a pink sign with yellow letters pasted on it that read: “Justice for Bessie”.

Walker – mother of three aged 12, 7 and 4 and a member of the Big Sandy Rancheria tribe – was missing from his hometown of Auberry, Calif. on Aug. 8. Two weeks later, her The family found her dead about 100 yards from a family member’s home, according to the sheriff’s office.

At the rally, Walker’s sister condemned the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for not doing more to locate Walker during his disappearance. “Nobody talks about it anymore. The sheriffs don’t tell us anything. Why was there not more work? Rodriguez said through tears.

The sheriff’s office told HuffPost that detectives had spent “hundreds of hours” searching for Walker, calling criticism of the family “unwarranted.” Walker’s cause of death remains “undetermined”. The sheriff’s office has not released a publication on the investigation since August.

Rodriguez said his family’s next step would be to file a complaint against the sheriff’s office.

Bessie Walker’s sister Ruby Rodriguez (right) speaks at a rally for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

HuffPost / Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

At the rally, local organizers with social justice group CURYJ condemned the inordinate attention given to The case of Gabby Petito – also a woman in her twenties who disappeared before being found dead, but who was white. Petito, who went missing on September 11, was found dead less than 10 days later.

While the case of Petito has national news from start to finish coverage on each development in its case (including The HuffPost), Walker’s case was only covered locally, not in so much detail.

“We are here to speak out against racism and the erasure of blacks, aboriginals and people of color,” said George Galvis, co-founder of CURYJ. “We are not saying it is wrong to investigate Gabby Petito. What we are saying is that black and indigenous women deserve the same level of investigation and they deserve the same attention from the media.

Thousands of women and girls of color go missing every year across the country, many attracting little or no public attention.

A report examined 247 missing teens in New York and California and found 34% of cases involving white teens were covered by the media, compared to just 7% of cases involving blacks adolescents and 14% involving Latinx children, the Associated Press reported.

A recent report on missing and murdered Indigenous women by the nonprofit Sovereign Bodies Institute found that in California, only 9% of murder cases involving Indigenous women and girls were solved, compared to a rate of over 60% statewide for solving murders, according to CalMatters.

Walker’s family held Tuesday’s rally outside local Fox television station KTVU, which hanging anchor Frank Somerville last month, apparently over disagreements with her superiors over her wish to add a note to a segment on Gabby Petito to highlight how black women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and receive less attention than missing white women – or what the late journalist Gwen Ifill dubbed “missing white woman syndrome”.

KTVU did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.

May the words we speak today help someone somewhere, ”said Indigenous organizer Lyla June Johnston in a prayer at the start of the gathering as the sage burned. “We ask you to protect our women.”

“Bless our enemies, bless the people in the information studio behind us,” Johnston added. “Bless those who don’t see us as human and help them understand that they are our family. “

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