Native Women and Girls Rally

Rina Kowalski takes the microphone at a Fairbanks rally marking the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Amanda Bohman/News-Miner

Sherine Titus scanned a list of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls on a memorial at the Golden Heart Plaza in downtown Fairbanks.

She found two familiar names: Maxine Thibedeau, an aunt, who was shot to death in 1996 in her Fairbanks home as she slept; and Loujean Jimmie, who was found dismembered in 1973 in a cabin in Nenana.

Titus was sad that women were murdered on both sides of her family.

She joined about 150 people at a rally and march to remember the “stolen sisters” Sunday, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

Rally organizers called for reform in the criminal justice system to better protect indigenous women and girls from violence. The statistics tell a grim story.

“While violence against Native women occurs at higher rates than any other population in the United States, it is at its worst in Alaska,” said Tamra Truett Jerue, executive director of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center.

Native Women and Girls Rally

This painted sign was carried during a rally and march to bring attention to high rates of violence against Alaska Native women and girls Sunday, May 5, 2019. Amanda Bohman/News-Miner

Jerue was one of multiple speakers.

“A full 50% of Alaska Native women will have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime,” she said.

Alaska has the highest homicide rate of women killed by men, she said.

In 2000, Della Brown’s life was cut short. She was 33 when Joshua Wade raped and beat her. He left her partially clothed body in a shed in Anchorage.

A jury acquitted Wade of murder. He killed again after he was set free and later confessed to killing Brown.

Some of the speakers said the criminal justice system has failed Alaska Native women and girls.

Misty Nickoli said her grandmother’s death was classified as an accident. She believes it was murder.

“Our women who are taken are often misclassified,” she said.

Rallygoers — many of whom wore red in a show of solidarity — marched down Cushman Street, led by a musical procession, and gathered in a large circle on the grassy area in front of Patrick. B. Cole City Hall.

People shared stories of lost loved ones followed by drumming, singing and dance.

A few people held signs that stated, “No more stolen sisters.”

On the way back to the Golden Heart Plaza, participants chanted “defend the sacred, protect our sisters, silence no more.”

An organizer with Native Movement, an advocacy group that hosted the rally, said the organization has compiled a list of 184 Alaska Native women and girls who are missing or murdered from all areas of the state, and the list keeps growing.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.