Skip to Content

Sisters are a voice for missing and murdered Indigenous people

By Alyssa Gomez

Click here for updates on this story

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCCI) — Sisters Trisha Rivers and Jessica Lopez-Walker didn’t grow up with each other, but they are now side-by-side, striving to create a positive change in their community.

Separated as children, the sisters had few opportunities to connect with their family and truly celebrate their Native American heritage. Upon meeting later in life, they journeyed to connect with their indigenous tribes. In the process, the sisters also uncovered a dark part of their family history.

Their aunt, Paulette “Paulie” Walker, left home for the West Coast in 1984 and was never heard from again. Trisha and Jessica would later find that she was murdered. When her body was found, no one claimed her, despite Paulette being married.

Jessica started on a journey to find where Paulette was buried. Scouring social media pages and missing persons websites, she eventually was able to track down the body in California. Paulette’s case has gone cold.

Jessica says the process was grueling.

“I had to file a missing person’s report and I could not get help from any department,” she said. “People were also really judging the fact that I’m trying to do this just now… I think when you’re sitting there and trying to find your loved one, people should have more compassion.”

The family is in the process of bringing Paulette home and burying her near family.

The United States Department of the Interior recognizes that Indigenous people are victims of violence, sexual assault and murder at higher rates than the national average. Around 2.9 million AI/AN people are victims of violence — that’s nearly equivalent to every person in Iowa.

Because the sisters have experienced the epidemic firsthand, they’ve made it part of their mission to find other missing or murdered indigenous people. They often act as a resource for other families and have been in talks about creating a task force.

“I think just because of the situation I went through in trying to find her, we speak out because if we don’t, nobody else is going to do that. Nobody else is going to stand up for us. So we do. We take our voice and make sure we’re heard,” Jessica said.

Trisha and Jessica remain focused on increasing indigenous representation within Sioux City. Both hold positions on Sioux City boards and committees, with hopes to eventually hold places in city council and school boards, too.

“It’s hope that we will see better days and we will see solutions to our own epidemic that’s happening and to really take up space to demand better treatment for our native communities,” Trisha said.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content