Auburn, WA—32-year old actress Misty Upham had starred in the award-winning film Frozen River with Melissa Leo and August: Osage County with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. This young, talented actress from the Blackfeet Nation was last seen alive by her father, Charles Upham, on October 5, 2014.
Her body was found 11 days later.
Charles admits that his daughter had severe depression and that she would drink as a way of coping. She had recently been aggravated and aggressive, and the night she went missing she had been drinking heavily. When her father called the police to get her help, she stormed off saying she would not let the police take her away.
When the police arrived, Charles told them what had happened and that they needed to go search for his daughter.
“I kept telling them, ‘You guys need to help me find her.’ I said, ‘She really needs to be in the hospital.’ They just said, ‘Well, if we see her, we’ll bring her to the hospital,’ and they said, ‘We’ll keep an eye out for her.’ Then they drove away.”
The police state that they did not begin a full-fledged search for Misty because her situation did not fit Washington’s Endangered Missing Person Advisory (EMPA). Had Misty been in danger due to a “mental disability,” the police would have searched for her immediately. Even though Misty’s depression caused her to act irrationally and have psychotic episodes, she was not considered to have a disability.
Misty was found at the bottom a ravine. She had died of blunt-force injuries to her head and torso the very same day she had gone missing. The police claim that Misty received these injuries by falling down a cliff into the ravine.
Charles Upham, on the other hand, believes his daughter was murdered.
According to a family friend of the Uphams, a witness saw two men attack Misty and throw her into the ravine. This is indeed very possible, as Native American women are killed or go missing at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. 61 percent of Native women have been attacked in their lifetimes, with their assailants usually being non-Native.
Sadly, very little is being done to spread awareness about this issue. Lauren Chief Elk states that often times cases involving the disappearance of indigenous women are ignored and receive little coverage. “Even with Misty being a very well-known, prominent actress, even with that position, there was not an outcry or even awareness of what had even happened to her.”
The number of Native women who disappear or are attacked is a serious problem, one Laura Chief Elk is trying to mend. Chief Elk co-founded the Save Wiyabi Project, which spreads awareness on violence against Native American women. She has helped track over 1,000 deaths and disappearances of Native women.
As the police continue to investigate Misty Upham’s death, Charles Upham hopes that Misty’s story will likewise bring awareness to the public about the threats that Native women face every day.
“I’m fortunate enough to know that I found my daughter … whereas some of these other families out there, their loved ones are still missing,” Charles Upham said. “It really needs to be addressed you know. And this is one of the things that Misty wanted to do was become a voice for the voiceless. And now she’s become voiceless.”