On Wednesday night, mourners gathered by candlelight to remember Kristen Ballot Huntington, a 30-year-old Fairbanks woman who was slain.
Huntington, 30, was last seen alive Jan. 8 leaving her apartment in Hamilton Acres. She was reported missing by her family Jan. 10. Huntington was found in an empty apartment the evening of Jan. 12. Her death was ruled a homicide Tuesday. According to city of Fairbanks Communications Director Teal Soden, the Fairbanks Police Department had not made an arrest as of Wednesday evening but was actively working the case.
The vigil was attended by the young and old alike, all carrying candles, lit either by fire or battery, clumped in a loose circle around a small cluster of candles set in the middle of the Hamilton Square Apartments parking lot.
Those gathered included representatives of Indigenous Lives Matter, who organized the event, Healing Native Hearts Coalition, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, and Huntington’s family and friends.
Participants carried signs and posters with Kristen’s picture. Organizers displayed a red kuspuk on a long pole. It was red to represent missing and murdered indigenous women. A kuspuk is a traditional garment worn by Native Alaskans. For many, showing solidarity with the families of the missing and the murdered is why they came.
Kaylan Huntington, Kristen Huntington’s sister-in-law, was one of the organizers.
“We’re trying to get the word out that DV (domestic violence) is not okay. And this is just a really trying time. And we just want to put the awareness out.”
Matilda Huntington agreed with the sentiment, saying, “Because we hurt. We all hurt, we all feel this hurt. I think a lot of us have been through the same situation. A lot of us rose above it, but some of us haven’t and this is always what happens. It’s just sad. We all have to start protecting our women.”
Organizers spoke repeatedly about speaking out against domestic violence. In recent years, the cause to prevent the abduction and murders of Native women has become a louder rallying cry and it was echoed in the parking lot.
Organizers shouted, “Stay silent!”
Participants shouted back, “No more!”
There were prayers, tears and hymns. There was a call for the crowd to come together and support Native women. At one point, a man in the crowd shouted out that it was necessary for those present to work together, as none of the city or borough’s elected leaders were in attendance. After the ceremony concluded with a moment of silence, the group was invited to speak to Huntington’s family and grieve with them.
The candle of one woman shook as she recounted her reason for coming. Victoria Semaken came to support Huntington’s family because she could relate to them. Her sister, Mable Noble, was also killed in Fairbanks, in the 1990s. “Just to know what the family’s going through, what it feels like, to let them know that the community cares. There’s a lot of people here showing love and support for the family.”
Kristen Huntington’s mother, Arlene Ballot, said that she had also been hurt by domestic violence, and she struggled with the way she said her daughter died. “I just can’t believe it. It’s sad to see other people go through it. And your own daughter ...” Ballot was overcome and unable to continue speaking.
On Friday, an event will be hosted from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall, 111 Clay St., to raise money for funeral costs and transportation of family.
Anyone with information about Huntington’s disappearance or death is asked to contact the Fairbanks police detective division at 450-6550 or FPDInvestigations@fairbanks.us.
Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter @FDNMcity.