La Crosse proclaims May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day

Myah Decorah lost her sister in 2020; her case was resolved, but many others remain cold cases

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Federal agencies say one in three indigenous women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Many of these missing and murdered women remain cold cases because of a lack of reporting.

A new La Crosse proclamation aims to amplify voices that historically are ignored. Spring shows us signs of new life, but the evidence of the past is still present.

The issue “is not a new crisis for us,” said Justine Rufus, co-chair of the Wisconsin Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. “It has been ignored for far too long.”

The past was on the minds of many families in Riverside Park on Thursday. La Crosse Common Council member Rebecca Schwarz read the names of lives taken and people still missing. Myah Decorah won’t let her sister’s name fade with the changing seasons.

“She was the baby of the family,” Decorah said. “I’m here for my sister to keep her voice alive and for her memory.”

Kozee Decorah struggled with alcohol and drugs, but Decorah said her sister turned a corner.

“She was sober for three months,” she said.

Kozee was in a custody battle for her children before her partner took her life.

“Then something like this happened, and it’s sad and it hurt our family a lot,” Decorah said.

In May of 2020, authorities found Kozee’s body in an outhouse in a remote part of a Nebraska reservation.

“Had it been a little longer, they probably never would never found her,” said Decorah, who acknowledged comfort in knowing that her family found a resolution.

“I’m thankful that help was found,” she said.

However, Decorah knows many indigenous women’s cases remain cold. The numbers are sobering.

“Only 116 of those 5,700 were entered into the federal database of missing persons,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes at Thursday’s MMIW 5K Run Walk.

“It needs to be talked about,” Decorah said. “The issue needs to be shared.”

On this day, many people gathered to run and walk. Steps toward more attention on these missing and murdered women.

A 5K that’s fitting for Decorah because this was Kozee’s joy.

“She loved to run,” Decorah said.

“We seek to amplify the voices that have been historically ignored,” Barnes said. “The voices that have been traditionally shouted over.”

An event that inspires conversation, a chance to hear the names.

“Time is of the essence,” Decorah said.

Acknowledgement, that may help resolve the past and create a system that protects the future.

“It’s appreciated a lot,” Decorah said.

Participants hung red dresses to represent those women along the river trail in Riverside Park. La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds officially declared May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Day of Awareness.

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