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CA Tribe Members Missing Amid Reservation Mental Health Crisis

A young California mother and college graduate, Emmilee Risling, went missing soon after being charged with starting a fire in a cemetery, the Associated Press reports. The woman, a tribe member, was last seen walking across a bridge in a far corner of the Yurok Reservation. Her disappearance is one of five in the past month where Indigenous women have gone missing or killed on the west coast. Risling, with ancestry from three prominent tribes, struggled with addiction and abuse leading up to her disappearance. “It’s real difficult when you deal with the grandkids, and the grandkid says, ‘Grandpa, can you take me down the river and can we look for my mama?’ What do you tell him? ‘We’re looking, we’re looking every day,’” said Emmilee's father, Gary.

The Yurok tribe declared an emergency and has begun building a California database of similar cases while fighting for more autonomy when dealing with these types of disappearances. Indigenous woman face a murder rate three times greater than white women, and 62 percent of disappearances go unreported in state and federal databases. Although the Yurok police are in charge of handling missing persons, only the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department can declare a case cold, which could lead to federal help.


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