‘Nobody’s doing nothing’: Sorrow over missing, murdered Natives inspires bill in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A new bill in the Nebraska Legislature would take on the unsolved cases of murdered and missing Native Americans, a problem in our state and nationwide.

Ashleigh Wabasha, 19, was reported missing March 27, 2022. 

“We looked for her for a long time, asking people if they knew anything,” said her mother, Michelle Denney.  

Her body was found three weeks later on the Santee Sioux Reservation in northeast Nebraska.

Her case, as well as those of many other Native women, served as a reason for creating a bill to appoint a state liaison for Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons. 

It was introduced by Sen. Jane Raybould of Lincoln.

“For context, Nebraska ranks seventh among states with the highest numbers of murdered and missing Indigenous women,” said Rose Godinez with the ACLU of Nebraska.  

Many times, relatives of missing Native people say they feel they are not treated as a priority compared with other cases. 

Wabasha’s family said there were many inconsistences in the case. 

“People consistently say that my daughter was an accidental death,” said the father, Dewayne Wabasha. “I don’t believe that. We don’t believe that.” 

Denney felt there was so much that could have been done in the process. 

“I was kind of upset because I just feel like nobody’s doing nothing,” she said. “Nobody’s doing nothing for our daughter.” 

The family support Raybould’s bill and believes that appointing a liaison would help families like them in the future. 

Native American advocates say if the bill passes, the person appointed to the position should be someone who understands what their communities go through. 

“I feel like it takes somebody that has been in the shoes and has similar life experiences to understand the struggles that we go through as Indigenous people,” said Lestian Saul-Merdassi, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe.

As far as Wabasha’s case, her family said that even though authorities say they are still investigating, it doesn’t seem to move forward.  

“We are also grateful that our daughter can still help other people,” Denney said. 

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