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Hundreds gather at North Dakota state Capitol for Lafontaine-Greywind vigil

Hundreds gathered at the North Dakota state Capitol for a vigil for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. John Hageman / Forum News Service 1 / 2
LuAnn Baker, center, and her children Elin, right, Sonny, middle, and friend Taraya McLeod, left, hold up twigs of sage during a prayer at an evening vigil for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind as several hundred gathered at the steps of the state Capitol in Bismarck on Wednesday. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune2 / 2

BISMARCK—Hundreds gathered at the North Dakota state Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 30, to honor Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose body was found in the Red River over the weekend.

Standing before the crowd on the Capitol steps, Jon Eagle Sr. said he didn't want LaFontaine-Greywind's death "to be for nothing." He said many Native Americans have already gone through similar tragedies and Native women experience violence at a higher rate than other races.

"In order for us to really make a change, it's going to take all of us," said Eagle, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "In our ways and our belief system, we are taught that women are sacred because only woman can bring life into this world."

LaFontaine-Greywind was born at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, where her mother is a tribal member, and grew up at the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, where her father is a member. Flags representing Turtle Mountain and Spirit Lake, along with United Tribes Technical College, were flown on the Capitol steps Wednesday.

LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, was eight months pregnant when she went missing Aug. 19. Authorities have said two neighbors conspired to kill her in order to steal her baby.

The baby police found in the suspects' apartment, which is believed to be LaFontaine-Greywind's child, was placed in the protective custody of Cass County Social Services.

Similar vigils have been held across the region, including in Fargo, Grand Forks, Winnipeg and St. Paul. LaFontaine-Greywind's death struck people because she was a young mother-to-be, said Margaret Landin, who helped organize Wednesday's event.

"When we see her, we see her as our daughters, we see her as our sisters, we see her as our other women in the community," Landin said.

Most of the crowd, including Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Brent Sanford, were wearing red, which Landin said recognizes murdered and missing indigenous women.

"That's just us showing that we are fighting for them, because some of them are still missing," she said. "Justice hasn't been served in a lot of cases."

Kayakers found LaFontaine-Greywind's body in the Red River Sunday, eight days after she went missing. Preliminary autopsy results, disclosed by police Tuesday, showed LaFontaine-Greywind died of "homicidal violence."

The two suspects in the case, Brooke Crews, 38, and William Hoehn, 32, were formally charged Monday with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and providing false information to police.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

(701) 255-5607
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