‘No more’: Yakama community fights to keep a spotlight on their missing loved ones

Authorities say at least 34 indigenous people have been reported missing in Yakima County

TOPPENISH, Wash. — Hundreds of community members gathered Thursday in Toppenish to march for the dozens of missing and murdered indigenous people on the Yakama Reservation whose families have yet to find answers, justice or peace.

The Yakama Nation’s REDgalia event takes place annually on the national MMIW awareness day and serves to remind people that violence against indigenous people is still a major issue and deserves to be in the spotlight.

“As a nation, as a community, we need to do what we can to help put a stop to it so that our families can live in peace and we can be whole as a family and live our lives until we’re old,” Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Esther Moses-Hyipeer said.

Lack of funding a barrier to increased MMIW response on the Yakama Reservation

Moses-Hyipeer was one of the many people who attended the event Thursday to help bring awareness to continued disappearances on the reservation — a problem that has touched the lives of everyone in the community.

“This is happening nationwide, but for our area in Washington State, the numbers are high,” Moses-Hyipeer said.

Moses-Hyipeer said several lawmakers have begun to push for changes, including Rep. Dan Newhouse, who brought federal officials to the Yakama Reservation on Wednesday to hear MMIW stories firsthand. 

However, she said there’s still a lack of dedicated funding to help support programs and other efforts to address the MMIW crisis.

“You have your funding sources for your schools, for your lands, for your roads, but where does this fit in the budget?” Moses-Hyipeer said.

Anthony Peters

Missing person flyer provided by the Peters family

Still no answers in the 2014 disappearance of Anthony “Tony” Peters

According to the latest data from the Washington State Patrol, at least 34 indigenous people have been reported missing out of Yakima County. Behind each name on that list is a story and a family still searching for answers.

That includes Anthony “Tony” Peters, who has been missing from the Yakama Reservation for more than seven years. He was reported missing in October 2014 and was last seen at Legends Casino in Toppenish.

His sisters continue to share his story — again and again — in the hopes that someone will come forward with information about his disappearance.

“We just want to know what happened,” Alfreida Peters said. “We need that.”

The last time Peters saw her brother alive, it was from a distance. She had been driving and stopped at a stoplight, noticing him standing across the road.

“I thought, ‘Well, he looks pretty happy,’ so I waved at him and I went on my way,” Peters said. “I didn’t realize that would be the last time.”

Peters said her brother was also one of the many indigenous people living on the streets in the area. She said people in those circumstances often face judgement  by strangers and community members alike.

“We would wish that would stop because it’s uncalled for,” Peters said. “These family members never meant to have this kind of lifestyle.”

Peters said despite her brother’s circumstances, he brought joy to the people around him and was well-known for his laughter and corny jokes.

“I just hope that we find out something about my brother and all of our other missing and murdered Indian individuals that we have here on the reservation,” Peters said.

Anthony “Tony” Peters was last seen in October 2014 at Legends Casino in Toppenish. Anyone with information about his case should contact Yakama Nation Tribal Police at 509-865-2933 and reference case#15-006132.

The latest list of missing indigenous people in Washington state can be found here.

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