October 22, 2021- I looked up a student, from long ago, and she had some searing things to say, on her social media page. All of it is true-and is unfortunate. We ignore these messages, to our peril. She was one of Penny’s favourite people, and I link her messages to what my dearly beloved wife told me, when we first met, forty-one years ago in December.
Penny said, “Hit me, just once, and we’re done.” I wouldn’t have hit her, anyway, but the message stayed in my heart.
Penny said, “Cheat on me, just once, and I’m gone.” I wouldn’t have cheated on her, anyway, but the message took.
Penny said, “Go and get those girls, and bring them home to their parents.” She did not have to say it twice. I got in my car, found the girls and brought them home, where they belonged. No Native child disappeared on my watch.
“N” said, “Treat all children like they are your children.” This was in reference to the hundreds, nay thousands, of Native women and girls, gone missing and unaccounted.
“N” said, “Where is the concern for all my missing sisters?” It is a continental disgrace, the epidemic loss of sheer human talent that is in a state of limbo, or loss, or suspended animation-maybe just left to rot, by others who took their own lack of self-worth out on women, girls-and male humans, cutting their lives short, then just walking back into the community, as if nothing has ever happened.
The case of Gabby Petito has brought renewed attention to the missing Indigenous women-and countless other people of colour whose fate is unknown. Ms. Petito’s family has it right: Every missing person, every abused soul, deserves the same energy and attention that has been directed towards justice for their daughter and cousin. Her likely abductor is himself dead. Other perpetrators are living in shame.
What of a young man, whom I knew as a boy, and who has been missing for over a year? What of the three dozen or so Dineh teenaged girls, whose posters one may see in any trading post, convenience store, post office or truck stop on the Navajo and Hopi Nations, or in any border community? What of Latinas, missing from even the smallest barrios, across Arizona and New Mexico?
I know that every child matters. That is precisely why it’s imperative to listen, when a fierce woman like N, or J, or T-or my ferocious late wife, comes forward, puts up a straight-ahead message: “PAY SOME *#@!! ATTENTION!” I would have paid attention, anyway-but the work still lies ahead.
If you see, or hear, something, say something. Better yet, DO SOMETHING!