OMAHA, Neb. — When it comes to the Gabby Pettito story, there were regular updates, press conferences, even invitations for the media to tag along on searches for the missing young woman.
When it comes to Black and brown women — women like 29-year old Ashlea Aldrich from Macy, Nebraska — information is hard to come by. She disappeared in January of 2010 and her family is still waiting on justice.
Native American ally, April Satchell spoke about Aldrich at a congressional hearing in June of 2020.
"Right now our lives don't matter. A non-native man can rape us, murder us and, as long as we don't know who that person is, the law right now does not protect us," said Satchell.
The Big Elk Native American Center has been established to make sure voices of native women be heard, as silence is no longer an option.
"Show up, hear our voices, hear our problems and issues, all you good people out there. Be an ally to our problems and issues because we have been so in the shadows for a long time and once you are in the shadow, you are not even thought about," said Lavelle Wells, President of Big Elk Native American Center.
Ashley Aldrich's body was found muddy and naked in a cornfield on the Omaha Indian Reservation. No arrests, no press releases to the media and, when KMTV reached out to the FBI for an interview about the case, we were denied.
When asked why the interview was denied, the FBI wrote to us saying, "We are declining an interview. I can tell you the FBI investigates cases in tandem with the Omaha Tribal Police. The FBI has spoken directly to Ashlea Aldrich's family with respect to the outcome of our investigation."
When we called the head of the Omaha Nation Law Enforcement Agency, we were told they do not speak to the media.
"The drive for news comes from the people and we are not demanding and we are not responding enough to the missing and murdered indigenous women," said Kelby Faye Robb, an ally for Indigenous women. "So, I hate to blame the media but I think with the right direction, we saw it with Gabby, it can be absolutely groundbreaking,"
Red handprints have come to symbolize missing, murdered and Indigenous women (MMIW). Native women are raped and murdered at a rate 10 times higher than that of other women, according to the National Institute of Justice.
"So, are you telling me that my granddaughter, if she were to fall victim, if we don't know who the perpetrator is, they will not go after the person who took her life or my life? It's not right," continued Satchell. "What's going to make these people stop if there is no one going after these people? Please help my people."
Not only are Indigenous tribes fighting for their cultural survival, but the memory of and justice for those brutally taken away and seemingly forgotten.
Recently the Bureau of Indian Affairs formed the Murdered and Missing Unit, announced by U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.