Recently released documentary on missing, murdered indigenous women highlights local woman

Rosenda Strong’s family members, left to right, Cissy Strong-Reyes, sister, Rosa Moran, sister, Karman Strong, daughter, and Christopher Strong, brother, hold a banner for Rosenda at a vigil for missing and murdered indigenous women on Feb. 23 at Campbell Farm near Wapato.

A recently released documentary on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States includes the story of a woman who went missing on the Yakama Reservation in early October.

In The Search: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines program asks why indigenous women are going missing and what more could be done to address the problem. Fault Lines broadcasts its documentaries on its series page, aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines, and YouTube.

The 26-minute documentary highlights the stories of Rosenda Strong and Alyssa McLemore, who are missing; and Henny Scott and Ariel Begay, who went missing and were found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Crew members filmed with families in Washington, Montana and New Mexico and on the Yakama, Northern Cheyenne and Navajo nations in February. They include Kavitha Chekuru, producer and director; Allison Herrera, correspondent; and Anna Clare Spelman, director of photography. Warwick Meade was the editor and Laila Al-Arian was the executive producer.

The documentary begins with the story of McLemore, who has been missing from Kent since April 9, 2009. She was 21 then and 5 feet, 1 inch tall, weighing about 130 pounds, with black hair often dyed blonde and brown eyes. Those with information are asked to call the Kent Police Department.

From Kent the crew traveled to the Yakama Nation, attending a Feb. 23 event that raised funds for a search for Strong. Ne’sha Jackson, a longtime tribal judge, legal expert and highly respected elder, was among those who spoke.

“We have a very horrible thing that has come to our reservation. ... Our hope and our prayer is that the word is reaching those who need to put the necessary things in place to help those of you who are still ... looking for your loved ones,” Jackson said.

Strong’s siblings also spoke of their sister, who left the home of her sister, Cissy Strong Reyes, on Oct. 2 with an acquaintance to visit Legends Casino in Toppenish. She has not been seen since that day.

“She’d never leave home without telling us. But I’m going to be her voice until I find her,” Reyes said. The family is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to her location.

Herrera also interviewed Anitta Luchessi, executive director of the Sovereign Bodies Institute. Luchessi is a doctoral student who has compiled a missing and murdered indigenous women database. She and Sarah Deer, a Native American lawyer, professor and author, talk about the lack of comprehensive data — which spurred Luchessi to create her database.

“The ripple effect is so much bigger than any of us are able to measure,” Luchessi said.

The documentary notes that one of most important things law enforcement can do is act quickly. Crucial information and evidence can be much harder to gather after the initial 48 hours.

Reach Tammy Ayer at tayer@yakimaherald.com or on Facebook.