I gotta wonder what’s going on at Pine Ridge

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has a population only around 30,000 or so people, but it’s larger than Delaware and Rhode Island COMBINED. It’s also one of the poorest places in the entire country, with 80% unemployment and a per capita income lower than Namibia’s. As I’ve written about before, the statistics are just horribly depressing:


And the number of missing people from the reservation that are on Charley? Four. I added a new one today. Plus, NamUs has three more: Vincent Steve Little Dog and Robert Anthony Kills Enemy at Night, who disappeared together and aren’t on Charley yet cause they haven’t yet been missing a year, and Perry Ray Robinson, who isn’t on Charley yet and whose life and disappearance will probably take some considerable time to research and summarize.

So, seven missing people. That I know of. And this in a place with a small-town population. And this is not counting Larissa Lone Hill, who was FROM Pine Ridge but apparently disappeared from Rapid City, a city off reservation.

This number is likely to grow, in large part because the MMIW (missing and murdered indigenous women) epidemic has caused information to come out about previously unreported or forgotten-about missing persons and homicide victims who were Native American.

I know there must be a lot of reasons for the disappearances: the poverty, the rampant, alcoholism, the extremes of weather and terrain (that part of South Dakota is called the Badlands for a reason), etc.

But it’s still just… shocking. It’s shocking and depressing and horribly wrong and indicative of a number of very serious, systemic problems that aren’t likely to be solved anytime soon.

The people I have on Charley from Pine Ridge are:

  1. Lori Lee Jealous of Him, 13, missing since 1989
  2. Neil Little Eagle, 49, missing since 2017
  3. Delema Lou Sits Poor, 12, missing since 1974
  4. Alejandro Pilar Vasquez, 24, missing since 2015

All are Native American.

What’s going on at Pine Ridge? A lot apparently.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Stay safe people, wash your hands and for heaven’s sake, if you’re not an essential worker STAY HOME.

23 thoughts on “I gotta wonder what’s going on at Pine Ridge

  1. DOC March 22, 2020 / 2:45 pm

    I notice two are connected (Vincent Little Dog and Robert Kills Enemy at Night) in that they apparently fled together from the police when they went on to become missing. A blizzard warning existed at that time and the sun was setting, too.

    It’d be nice to think they might’ve saved themselves, but I’m afraid to say it goes against most reason. One can only hope it went quickly.

    By the way, some of the names are very memorable. I’ve never seen that before. I wonder if they’re run together as one word on licenses and other official documents, or how that’s managed.

    • Meaghan March 22, 2020 / 5:31 pm

      Well, many white people’s names are similar, it’s just that white people’s names are often still in the original European language they originated in, and the Native American names have been translated into English. Like, the surname Dupont means “From the Bridge” in English. The surname Blake originates in Old English, and could, paradoxically, mean either “dark” or “pale.” (Cause in Old English, “blac” was someone with dark hair or skin, and “blaac” was someone with pale hair or skin.)

      • doc March 22, 2020 / 6:03 pm

        That is an excellent point.

      • Alice March 24, 2020 / 12:45 pm

        Technically, they’re not ‘white people names’, but ‘European names’, as ‘white’ can be rather broad, as are all colours.

      • Meaghan March 24, 2020 / 2:29 pm

        It is a bit interesting sometimes to see which missing persons get listed as Caucasian and which do not. Race being basically a social construct and all. Zecki Hallum for example, someone on Twitter told me he was “not white” but all the sources I found did list him as Caucasian. Shrug. Based on Mr. Hallum’s name I believe he may be Turkish, and thus probably has European, Asian and North African ancestry. Genetic studies on modern Turkish people indicate mostly Southern European ancestry but with a significant percentage of Central Asian thrown in as well.

      • Alice March 24, 2020 / 6:12 pm

        Ah yes, Turkish people are very interesting genetics wise. I know a Turk who is as pale as could be, while another one I know has olive skin. Blame Ottoman slavery.

  2. doc March 22, 2020 / 6:00 pm

    Looking through all the info, Meaghan, and I must agree. It is actually shocking, and very much depressing. I don’t know how else it could be described.

    • Meaghan March 22, 2020 / 6:45 pm

      There’s a podcast called “Finding Cleo” which is about the search for an indigenous girl. When she was little, she and her siblings were taken from their mother and placed for adoption in different homes (as was the practice in those days for Native children). As adults the siblings found each other, except for Cleo, whom they couldn’t locate. It’s not about Pine Ridge, but the podcast goes into a lot of detail about the very sad history of exploitation and violence and genocide of indigenous people in the US and Canada.

      • DOC March 24, 2020 / 1:09 pm

        For anyone who doesn’t know, it is a CBC multi-part podcast, done documentary-style (sort of like listening to one, rather than listening to a typical podcast which has fewer dimensions).

        I read ahead of myself, though, and not sure if it was a good idea to do that – compared to just jumping in and listening, to experience it as it went.

      • doc March 24, 2020 / 4:45 pm

        Yes, I’d definitely recommend that a person who’d listen to this, just get into it and listen (unlike me, who read first and shortchanged the surprise value that runs through it). It’s very grim, though, and very sad. So be warned.

    • Meaghan March 22, 2020 / 6:47 pm

      Yeah, I mentioned him in my entry saying his case would take some time to research and write up.

    • Vincent March 22, 2020 / 6:48 pm

      Sorry. I left a typo in my name. It should say Vincent.

  3. Patrick Kerrigan March 23, 2020 / 10:12 pm

    I recently read an interesting book, related somewhat related. The book title is ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ by David Grann. It’s about Oil, Money, Murdrr and the Birth of the FBI. A very good read about the exploitation of Native American Tribe, that were getting money for the oil being pumped up p out of their land in Oklahoma.

    • Heather Foster March 24, 2020 / 10:14 am

      that is an excellent book!

  4. doc March 24, 2020 / 7:39 pm

    This man was dropped off on a lonely island, by his tribe, where he was to remain by himself for an extended time. It’s an old practice used to treat behavior problems, including addiction. That was approximately 18 months ago.

    According to the currently available informafion, he’s still missing from that trip. This article is from one year back: https://www.thestar.com/vancouver/2019/03/17/family-continues-search-for-man-missing-on-island-in-traditional-healing-journey.html

    • doc March 24, 2020 / 10:27 pm

      The more I look, the more it appears that he may be alive and simply living out of contact on the island. His family seems to think so, according to the Facebook posts I’ve seen. Apparently they’re judging that by more than just wishful thinking, as the food they’ve been leaving during the searches has consistently disappeared like clockwork.

      They’re now getting building supplies to make a small shelter on the island.

      • Meaghan March 25, 2020 / 9:21 am

        About the food… presumably animals live on this island?

      • doc March 25, 2020 / 12:41 pm

        Agreed. I can only imagine they’ve been leaving it in a way that requires a person to access it, but then again if there’s some delusional thinking involved then maybe not. Maybe they’re doing the opposite, in order to trick themselves into thinking there’s still hope for the person.

        Clearly, his family loves him and misses him. That much seems sure. So it may not be far fetched to think they’d do that.

        But what an interesting, ongoing story.

  5. Patrick Kerrigan March 24, 2020 / 7:45 pm

    Doc, I like that they sent him there to heal, and they lost him.

    • Meaghan March 24, 2020 / 7:50 pm

      “Wilderness therapy” is a pretty common “treatment” for out-of-control American teens. Their parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to send them off on a wilderness hiking/camping trip with other out-of-control teens and some adult “counselors” for a month or two, hoping it will solve whatever behavior problems they’re having.

      But the behavior problems are often a symptom of an underlying mental illness or systemic issues within the home, and many times the teenagers come back even worse than before. Also, the “counselors” are often unqualified at both therapy and wilderness survival. Kids have died as a direct result of these obscenely expensive “wilderness therapy” programs.

    • doc March 25, 2020 / 12:52 pm

      Yes, it went “awry” as the man’s uncle says.

      Also, as Meghan pointed out, it seems they finally caught onto the big picture much too late:

      “Family and friends now believe Thomas was dealing with deeper mental illness than they were aware of. ” – newspaper article, The Star

  6. DOC March 29, 2020 / 4:06 pm

    Regarding Travis Damon Thomas, the man last seen on Bartlett Island, British Columbia: Not much information has emerged in the past six months. But his family routinely posts about it on Facebook, and they appear to believe he’s still alive.

    It’s true that Bartlett Island could provide all necessities for a knowledgable person to survive, even without outside supplies being left. And it’s true that Thomas had been trained in survival courses – including on Bartlett Island – where it’s been said he was especially good at avoiding instructors during hiding exercises. The landscape itself allows that quite well, as it includes many caves and crevices nestled within very dense foliage.

    Claims exist to say that food left in a metal box has been taken, and that Travis himself has been spotted in the distance – now with long hair and a bushy beard. A narrow cave requiring a snakelike approach to enter was said to contain pictures of the man’s family that had also been taken from the metal box. Ahousaht Search and Rescue has directed most of the search activity that led to these claims, though – and it’s possible they’d have strong interest in keeping an appearance that he’s still alive.

    But more concrete items include recordings of an apparent human figure standing in the trees, caught by a trail camera several months ago. Infrared footage taken from a boat off the shoreline, also from several months ago, seem to show someone using a small fire. Neither of these things can offer conclusive proof that Travis is alive and on the island, however.

    Personally, I believe it’s possible he made arrangements to be picked up from the island and that he’s hiding elsewhere in Canada. But if he did go into hiding on the island, then I could only imagine it’d have turned into a race with time – against an inevitable deterioration from mental and physical illness.

    It’s been about a year since cadaver dogs were run through the island, so maybe (sadly) it’s time for another round.


    (From Vancouver Sun…) For Chief Louie, the search for Travis is ongoing, but has also become a tale of caution for the community.

    “The lesson learned for Ahousaht is to see that times have changed from where a person was taken straight to the island, to having a greater sensitivity around mental health,” he says. “Unfortunately, we are learning from Travis.”

    It is unlikely another band member will be placed on the island to help recovery, Louie says, and in spring 2020 a Wellness Centre will open in Ahousaht offering emergency detox and mental health services, backed by traditional cultural practices. (/Vancouver Sun)

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