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“No More Stolen Sisters” Nome Community Rallies for Change on MMIWG Day

May 5, 2024

Ben Townsend, News Director

The march for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Day began at the steps of Nome City Hall, where a small but passionate group of children led the way. With determined faces and voices louder than their size, they led the chant, “No more stolen sisters!” Red hand prints covered the mouths of many participants, a symbolic nod to the feeling of being silenced in the pursuit of justice. 

Hearing the children lead the chant was a pleasant surprise to event organizer Deilah Johnson. This was her fourth time putting on the event but her first seeing the kids take the lead. 

“They are our future leaders, and I think they felt empowered and supported by the adults that were behind them. I think that it also speaks to the culture of us as a people. You know, we want them to do that. We want to encourage that,” Johnson said.

State of Alaska MMIP Coordinator Ingrid Goodyear addresses the crowd as a photo of Florence Okpealuk leans against a lectern. Ben Townsend photo.

Signs with photos of Florence Okpealuk were present throughout the event as the community, nearly four years after her disappearance, continues their search for answers and accountability. A large photo of Okpealuk adorned the stage as speakers for the event took turns addressing the crowd. Okpealuk’s sister Blaire Okpealuk spoke last, joined on each side by Florence Okpealuk’s daughter and family friend Elizabeth Kugzruk.

Blaire recounted the details of her sister’s disappearance, eliciting an emotional response from the crowd. The somber story is one many members of the audience have heard before, either through the story of Okpealuk or someone else they know. 

“I love that they have the courage to get up there and to speak on behalf of Flo, so that they can hopefully spread the fact that Flo’s a human being, she has loved ones. So I’m just happy that she was brave to do that,” Johnson said.

Delia Oozevaseuk attended the event after being invited by her daughter. Oozevaseuk’s niece from Savoonga went missing in Anchorage many years ago, making Blaire Okpealuk’s testimony hit even closer to home. 

“I just got hurt, emotional. I cried,” Oozavaseuk said of Blaire Okpealuk’s speech. “I know Blaire too and I wanted to support her.”

Johnson hopes that this event inspires the community to implement changes to better serve indigenous populations. 

“It takes every single person knowing that this is an issue, which is why I loved the turnout today. They all support that this is an issue for us,” Johnson said.

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