Although a good many of us did not personally know beautiful Savanna Greywind, as indigenous people, we grieve for her like a sister. We are distraught like she was our very own relative, because in many ways, she was, and still is. She is us, so we mourn for her, and wish and pray so deeply that from the wounds of such a horrific tragedy, there may be healing.
Throughout the course of the search for Greywind, which began on August 19 after her disappearance, many indigenous people across Turtle Island became profoundly vested in the tragedy, doing whatever they could from their corner of the world. Countless supporters made loud calls for justice in Fargo, the state of North Dakota, the Midwest region, and beyond. Indigenous social media users spoke out en masse, and expressed their concerns and heartfelt love for one of our own, a beautiful young woman. And what was more about Savanna, was that at 8 months pregnant, she was a pure manifestation of life, carrying her first child, a precious baby girl.
Details of what exactly happened to Greywind, from being kidnapped- which at some point resulted in what is believed to be the forced delivery of her baby girl- to the events that caused her death, is yet to be known. But what we do know, is that this tragedy is among the most horrific of them all, and as the connected community of indigenous people spread across this land, we are shaken, and our collective grief is palpable.
Among many relatives, Greywind (Spirit Lake Dakota and Turtle Mountain Chippewa) is left behind by her parents, Norberta LaFontaine-Greywind and Joe Greywind, her companion and father of her child, Ashton Matheny, and what is likely to be her unborn baby, still in custody of social services until the baby’s identity can be confirmed by DNA testing.
As the tragic story of Savanna Greywind unfolded before a national audience, Indian country, in particular, was entwined. Immediately upon hearing the heartbreaking news of Savanna’s confirmed death, indigenous social media users expressed deep sadness, shock, and in a show of profound sympathy, extended heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family.
I, for one, could not sleep. Tears, upon tears. We lost a beautiful sister so full of life, and her baby girl, if the baby found is, in fact, Savanna’s, will live out her life without the physical presence and daily comfort of her mother.
While we grieve the loss of Savanna together, some of us perhaps unable to function as usual, we must recognize the sheer necessity of grieving, and then give ourselves, our friends, and relatives, the time and space to feel exactly what we, or they, feel. That grieving is also our healing, and even our spirit’s call to action: We must fight for justice. Savanna’s death cannot be in vain.
What some outside of indigenous communities might not quite understand, as we grieve so deeply for a young woman many of us never knew, is just how much we are invariably connected as indigenous people. We are connected, not just by shared culture, and connection to the land, but we are also connected through generations of collective struggle, loss, and tragedy. We are a widespread web of true community, and as we stand together, we also grieve together. Together, we send our deepest sympathies to the family.
Savanna, our beautiful sister, suffered a most horrendous and undeserved fate- a fate also shared by far too many other murdered and missing indigenous women, many of whom are our own relatives and friends, many of whom are still being grieved by torn families who have yet to see justice.
Sister, Savanna Greywind, we cry out for justice, and we won’t stop. Bright eyes and wide smile, Savanna Greywind will be remembered.
Rest in peace, beautiful sister. There will be justice in your name.
Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) is a mother, educator, activist, and an advocate for youth. Follow her at @SarahSunshineM.