A march and a mission; MMIP Wind River continues raising awareness for the murdered and missing

    (Riverton, WY) – Joseph Wallowing Bull Jr., Jocelyn Watt, Charles Allen Brown, Jade Wagon, Fred Wallowing Bull, Rudy Perez, Hanna Harris, Andy Martinez, Kim Blackburn, Inez Whiteman, Ivan Pine Jr., Ivan Pine Sr., Roger Big Crow, Warren Jorgenson.

    “We march for them.”

    The MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person) Wind River group held their now annual march on May 5, also known as “Red Day,” in Riverton City Park. The theme this year was “We march for them,” and the names above were just a few of the missing and murdered loved ones/families members whom march participants honored.


    Around 250 marchers met behind the recently demolished Tonkin Stadium, and then proceeded down Main Street to Riverton City Park, all while chanting, “We march for all. No more. Rise up. Stop the violence. No more. We march for all.”

    Attendees then gathered at the bandshell to hear speakers share their stories, as well as make contact with on-site resources like Victim Services, White Buffalo Recovery, the Office of Justice MMIP Unit, and many more.

    Allison Sage conducted the opening prayer before introducing Karen Returns to War, who shared a story about a healing song that came to her grandfather in a dream, but who then tragically passed away in a hit-and-run before he could perform it.

    Their family friend Clifford Grasshopper honored his legacy and later performed the song, which is directed at the Eagle, “because it flies the highest and is the closest to the Creator,” Returns to War explained.


    The lyrics go on to ask the Eagle to “take pity on people during times of mourning and to restore us back to healing.”

    “Find that healing, and most importantly, return to prayer,” Returns to War concluded.

    James Sorrels, the Eastern Shoshone Liaison for the State of Wyoming, was the next to speak, and said that overall the MMIP movement is “growing” as more awareness is being raised.


    Sorrels commented that “the Governor thinks very highly of the organization,” and urged attendees to “look after their loved ones” and to “make sure they get to and from where they’re going safely.”

    Riverton Mayor Tim Hancock agreed with Sorrel’s sentiment, commenting, “The more that we all come together the more power we have to make a difference and help our community be better.”

    Mayor Hancock stated that regardless of our differences, “we all have an important role to play,” and that he “wants to see the mission grow.”


    Following the Mayor, Cassandra Iron Cloud acted as the MC for a series of songs performed by Northern Arapaho Eagle Drum, with dancers comprised of community members and local youth. (Members of the Wyoming Indian High School Traditional Club were set to dance as well but there was a scheduling issue and only a few were in attendance.)

    “Many of us get our strength from our songs and especially from our Eagle Drum,” Iron Cloud shared before introducing the opening song.

    Next up was the inter-tribal song, which showcased multiple styles including fancy/traditional, and had many youth participants.

    “We have many little dancers that I’m very glad to see because these dancers, these young people, that’s our future,” Iron Cloud stated.

    The performances concluded with a healing song and a jingle dress dance, which Iron Cloud shared has its origins in a story about a Grandfather who was dealing with a sick Granddaughter.

    Iron Cloud explained that the Grandfather later had a dream where he was shown how to fashion that specific style of jingle dress, and he was instructed to have his Granddaughter and three of her friends dance while wearing the dresses as a part of the healing process.

    “It’s a way of healing,” Iron Cloud shared.

    Nicole Wagon, MMIP Wind River Chairperson, march co-coordinator and driving force behind the MMIP movement in the state of Wyoming/nationwide, was the next to speak.

    “We march for all. I’m grateful for everyone being here standing with us, marching with us to make this community safe again,” Wagon began.

    “We march for men, we march for women, we march for our two-spirited. MMIP Wind River is for the Wind River Reservation. It includes the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes. It includes everybody. It affects us all,” Wagon continued.

    “I’ve been committed to this movement since 2019 since I lost my daughter Jocelyn Watt,” Wagon then shared about her daughter who was tragically murdered in Riverton.

    Additionally, Nicole’s other daughter Jade Wagon went missing not long after, in what is still an active case. (You can hear more of Wagon’s story/mission in a KOVE Coffee Time interview that was conducted before the march.)

    “I try to empower all Tribes, all Indigenous, to create your own state MMIP task forces, create your own groups, make it what you would like. If you don’t like something in your state, change it. Change it with a bill, stand up at your state, city and Tribal levels,” Wagon implored to the crowd after thanking Governor Gordon for calling her to sign the proclamation for the state of Wyoming to recognize May 5 as Red Day.

    “All your voices count and matter. What bleeds on the Wind River Indian Reservation affects our cities, what happens in the cities, it bleeds into Wind River. We need to come together to stop the violence.”

    Wagon concluded by presenting quilts made by Betty Matthews to various march participants.

    Charlene “Charli” Sleeper, founder the MMIP Billings chapter, was the next speaker, and as she took the stage the wind noticeably picked up.

    She noted the wind “always moves” her, because she said that’s one of her “messengers that good things are to come.”

    Despite this good omen, Sleeper asserted that “we are far from done” with this “heartbreaking work.”

    Sleeper learned about our area while conducting field work for MMIP research, and stated she always tries to honor/learn about the “people, spirits, and culture of indigenous people” when she goes to new areas.

    Sleeper visited Bull Lake and learned about the water buffalo, the Wind River Trading Company and learned about local history, and later paid respects at the grave of Sacagawea and her family before driving “the many roads in all four directions” to get an idea of the layout of Wind River.

    “The Wind River Indian Reservation is nothing like what has been portrayed in the media. It’s a beautiful land with a vibrant people, culture and history,” Sleeper commented.

    Sleeper explained that she met Wagon during the 2023 US Non-Invisible Act Commission hearing in Billings, and that they have become friends/MMIP partners ever since.

    “Nicole’s work has created significant change in not only Indian country but for all of America. This is work no parent should have to do,” Sleeper added while fighting away tears.

    “The harrowing work Nicole has had to do to find justice for her daughters should have never been a burden on her, or any parent,” Sleeper continued before stating that Wagon’s work “stands as testament to the US Government’s failure to honor the treaties to provide adequate policing in Indian Country.”

    “It’s an indictment on every single president, both Republican and Democrat,” Sleeper went on to say before adding that Wagon’s story is one of many, partially in reference to Hanna Harris and mother Melinda, who continues to fight for justice after Hanna was murdered back in 2013 in Montana, and whose May 5 birthday serves as the reason why that day was chosen for Red Day.

    “This is not the burden a mother should carry.”

    Sleeper then urged folks who have a missing or murdered family member to immediately start a document to keep track of all resources and interactions made during this process, for “accountability and for reference,” because “things get chaotic during this process.”

    “People will lie to cover up these investigations,” Sleeper explained, and requested that people with information that might help these investigations go to the recent FBI Community listening sessions that have been taking place here in Fremont County.

    Mary Brown was the next to speak, and reiterated how difficult and harrowing it is to deal with the after-effects of when a family member has been murdered or gone missing, especially when they know the perpetrators still walk free.

    “They’re still walking. They have never spent a day in jail, never been arrested,” Brown stated. “But we know who they are.”

    Brown commented that “justice needs to be served to those responsible” so that it can be more of a “deterrent,” and then shared her plans to put pictures of missing and murdered loved ones on her property’s fence to raise more awareness.

    The uncle of Ivan Pine Jr., a local youth who tragically passed away a few months ago, also addressed the crowd, and reminded folks to show compassion to those on the street whom we might be quick to judge.

    “You see that person walking, that guy has no car there. Stop. Ask them if they need a ride somewhere. You could be saving their life. Even if it’s just a block over. Something could happen in a block, you never know.”

    Jolene Makeshine and D’Artagnan Deeds from the missing and murdered unit were the next to speak, and stated that they can be used as a resource to provide information on MMIP cases.

    Sleeper had explained in her address that the testimony she and Nicole gave at NIAC (Non-Invisible Act Committee) directly led to the formation of this unit. “With them being here that has given us hope,” Sleeper had commented. “Please reach out to them.”

    Cass Burson was the next scheduled speaker, but she had to ask Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Queen Julia Tillman to read a letter on her behalf due to the fact that her words were in honor of her father Warren Jorgenson, whom she tragically lost to murder just about a month ago.

    “I refuse to accept this way of life as normal,” Burson said in her letter after describing what life is like in the wake of a tragic loss, but advised that “just as they say trauma is passed on to the next generation, so is ancestral wisdom.”

    “This ancestral wisdom is suppressed by colonization,” Burson commented in the letter before stating that said “colonization and the capitalization of Indigenous lands” only further proves the importance of “healing the land” and “reconnecting with Mother Earth.”

    Carol Harper followed the reading of Burson’s letter, and shared that as a survivor of domestic abuse, her part in the MMIP movement is a “proactive one” that focuses on prevention.

    Harper, the mother of two US Marines, stated that “Life is a battlefield, and a lot of us are on the front lines of that.”

    She urged attendees to “look at the network of love and support without judgement,” and later concluded by also asking folks to attend the local MMIP task force meetings.

    Members of the Redrum Motorcycle Club, whose motto is “Spreading positivity on 2 wheels,” then shared their mission and why they ride for the MMIP movement.

    “We wanted to start this motorcycle club out here on the Wind River Reservation, because we care about our community,” Club president Norman shared, and added that the group “stands on the foundation of brotherhood,” “Native principals,” and “positive and righteous behavior.”

    Norman went on to say that the Club is “modeled after the original 5 nations of the Iroquois, who once fought each other but later came together to promote peace and unity.”

    “The MMIP movement is building. We have to get out there and let their voices be heard. Bring awareness to it. That’s what we’re about,” Norman concluded before sharing that they would take a ride around the reservation after the ceremony to help in that regard.

    Wagon then brought out Riverton Police Department Chief Eric Hurtado, who commented that the MMIP movement has always been one of importance to him, because it was also an issue in Alaska where he policed before joining RPD.

    Chief Hurtado also echoed how important it is for folks, especially Native youth, to travel with friends and to always let someone know where they’re going and when they get there safely.

    To help bring more awareness to the MMIP cause, Cief Hurtado then confirmed that Riverton will fly the MMIP flags on Main Street, by as early as next year.

    “Nicole, we will have those flags next year,” Chief Hurtado promised with emphasis on the word “will,” to many cheers from the crowd.

    “Today I’d like to share with you, please, I beg of you, all MMIP victims and families, don’t give up. Find that strength, you are not alone,” Wagon then stated before sharing that the case for her daughter Jade Wagon is no longer cold and is officially open, giving additional hope to those in similar situations.

    “I will get justice for my daughter Jade. I will,” Wagon concluded before bringing out the Eagle Drum to close out the ceremony with a prayer song.

    In the days following the march, Wagon also stopped by KOVE’s Coffee Time along with Sunny Goggles from White Buffalo Recovery, for a march follow-up and to give thanks to everyone who helped.

    You can listen to that interview in full below, as well as an interview conducted before the march with MMIP Wind River vice-chair Sarah Robinson, by clicking here.

    To stay up-to-date on the MMIP Wind River movement, visit their website, and to report an MMIP case here in Wyoming, email [email protected], or call 307-433-3221.


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