Death of Actress is Reminder of the Dangers Native Women Face

auburn

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.”

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5 thoughts on “Death of Actress is Reminder of the Dangers Native Women Face”

  1. I doubt if her heritage had anything to do with her death. I blame it on the complete lack of empathy and morals in the society. Some major discrepancies in the article. 1) Police don’t give a damn. They respond the same to anything. 2) Using Psychiatric terms, complete suppositions and criminal libel to badmouth the poor girl doesn’t help matters. Since the article basically discounts her being a victim of Psychiatry, where she’s trafficked drugs to under the guise of “psychiatric treatment”, it then stands out as a vicious opinion by an idiot who gave the psychiatric-worded quote about her behavior and who never met her.

  2. What you fail to address, like most articles on this site, is that the horrendous statistics that illustrate the insane levels of abuse that Native American women endure, overwhelmingly comes from the hands of Native American men! Maybe you should first look at a whole lot more self policing and mutual care and concern from one’s own tribe, community and family, rather than automatically whining about why the authorities didn’t do this, or didn’t do that. I have a daughter her age, and if she was showing all of these behavioral pathologies, every waking or sleeping moment some member of the family would have been keeping an eagle eye on her!

  3. We …have..the..same problem here,in VANCOUVER,B.C. CANADA. NATIVE WOMEN GO MISSING! MANY NATIVE WOMEN….!…! [some 60]..WENT MISSING.HERE IN VANCOUVER.!SOME WERE FOUND DEAD, MURDERED..BY A MAN NAMED PICKTON WHO OWNED A FARM..IN AREA-where apparently the many native women died by his hands,on his farm.HE CALLED THE PLACE MISS PIGGY’S-.SEEMS HE FED MANY BODIES TO HIS PIGS!-as.DNA..SAMPLES PROVED……..SAD WORLD WE HAVE TODAY.?..

  4. This of missing women and young ladys has really bothered me im mad that they are not getting justice for these women and their families it does not matter race if they are being paid to do a job it is their duty to find those who are killing and no telling what has become of missing sex trade whatever its worried me those forced to wear veils may very well be missing girls and women from around the world because they are not good to women over there they murder them I hate to say that but possible.But i am concerned native peoples are treated less than dogs and cats its so saddens me but God is watching he knows he will bring you back together.Great Spirit guard all women and girls and also help end suicide which im not so sure thats what happened to most of the native people.

  5. The tragic death of Misty Upham, and the level of violence against NA women is beyond words. Thank you for writing and posting this. My condolences to Mr. Upham.

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