Walking by Faith

Trahnea Phelan holds a sign as people gather for a "Walking by Faith" march along Highway 212 to Crow Agency in support of Roylynn Rides Horse in June.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

CROW AGENCY — After being beaten and set on fire in April, Roylynn Rides Horse walked three miles before she collapsed.

On Thursday, about 100 members of the Crow Tribe marched to bring awareness to the attack.

Rides Horse, 28, remains at the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit at University of Utah Healthcare in Salt Lake City. She required multiple skin grafts, and her family feared she would not survive.

“Imagine her going into shock and fighting for her six babies," Trista Fog in the Morning told the crowd that gathered at Apsaalooke Veterans Park after the march. “When she's able to hug her babies, see her babies, then that’s when we know our prayers are answered.”

The marchers gathered at 8 a.m. on U.S. Highway 212, near where Rides Horse was found. They marched with signs bearing Rides Horse’s picture and a banner that read, “Standing on prayer, walking by faith: Justice for Roylynn.”

Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote and Vice Secretary Shawn Backbone attended the march, along with Crow Tribe Legislators and Montana state legislators Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy and Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez.

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Kenneth Deputee leads a prayer

Kenneth Deputee leads a prayer before a "Walking by Faith" march in honor of Deputee's neice, Roylynn Rides Horse, in Crow Agency on Thursday.

Rides Horse’s uncle, Kenneth Deputee, opened the march. He said the walk was not just for his niece, but to help make the Crow Nation a better place to be.

Eugenia Deputee, a cousin of Rides Horse, was able to go to Salt Lake City to see her cousin after the attack. She said Rides Horse is no longer sedated.

Eugenia said Rides Horse was “always smiling” and “real quiet and timid” like a “little quiet mouse.”

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Sisters Trista Fog in the Morning and Trixy Phelan

Sisters Trista Fog in the Morning, right, Trixy Phelan become emotional as they speak about Roylynn Rides Horse during a walk and gathering in Crow Agency on Thursday.

“Even when she was being goofy, she was still not loud,” Eugenia said.

She said was older than Rides Horse and some of her other cousins and used to hoist them up and carry them under her armpits. 

Roylynn Rides Horse’s father, Roy Rides Horse, was present for the walk as well as Roylynn’s step-father Jerry Pretty Weasel. Neither wanted to speak to the public about Roylynn’s attack. Roy Rides Horse said he wanted to respect his daughter’s privacy.

Another of Roylynn’s uncles, Stanford Rides Horse, said many crimes are left unsolved on the Crow Indian Reservation without anyone taking notice. He said the family must be notified when a crime occurs, but so must the community. He said when there are different stories, it’s hard to know what to believe.

Stanford said he loved his niece Roylynn, who he remembered as a little girl making mud pies after a rain storm.

“The kids were told, you know, ‘don’t get muddy,’” Stanford said. “Might as well have said ‘get muddy.’”

It was one of those times when Stanford couldn’t get mad at them. He just laughed.

Garnett Bright Wings, Roylynn’s mother-in-law, said four of Roylynn’s children are staying with her while their mother is in the hospital.

“They wait for their mom every day,” Garnett said. The kids haven’t spoken to Roylynn since the attack. They are able to do video calls with their other grandmother, Deputee-Pretty Weasel.

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Doris Gets Down comforts her great-granddaughter

Doris Gets Down comforts her great-granddaughter Malayia Bright Wings as Gordon Bright Wings sits nearby as people gather in support of Malayia and Gordon's mother, Roylynn Rides Horse in Crow Agency on Thursday.

The kids' great-grandmother, Doris Gets Down, walked with her daughter Garnett. The 70-year-old walked the whole distance, about four miles.

“I want to walk all the way,” Gets Down said. “I’m praying for Lynn to walk again.”

Old Coyote said when he got the call about Roylynn’s attack, the tribe lent the family a vehicle and gave them money for the flight to Salt Lake City.

“We are behind the family,” Old Coyote said. “We are praying for them.”

Old Coyote said has never gotten any information from federal investigators about the crime.

There is no sense of security on the Crow tribal lands and a lot of unanswered questions about this crime, he said. It makes for a dangerous set of circumstances.

“If we did something vigilante, took the law into our own hands, the FBI would be right there to arrest us,” Old Coyote said. “But where are they for the innocent?”

Donald Spotted Tail said he attended the march to support the family. He said the breakdown in tribal law enforcement has led to an “epidemic of crime." As a result of methamphetamine, he said the Crow people are being destroyed. Public safety is a priority and that needs to be expressed, he said.

“As a community, we aren’t well informed by our law enforcement,” Spotted Tail said. It takes too long for them to get to a scene, causing people to die who shouldn’t, he said.

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Trixy Phelan prays

Trixy Phelan prays before a "Walking by Faith" march in Crow Agency on Thursday.

Fog in the Morning and her sister Trixy Phelan, spoke to the crowd after the march.

Fog in the Morning said it was hard to speak in front of the crowd because of how much hurt there was in her heart.

“All these things that happen on the reservation, they’re not voiced,” she said. “Families, the FBI scares them and tells them, ‘Be quiet, don’t say anything, you’re going to mess up the ongoing investigation and the case. You’re going to jeopardize what we’re doing.’”

Fog in the Morning said no one knows the pain felt by the families of victims because they are scared to “speak up. We’re scared to voice things.”

When state Sen. Stewart-Peregoy spoke, she said the march was a call for justice, not just for Roylynn, but for all the open cases on the Crow Indian Reservation and reservations across the country. She said federal investigators were ready to jump on the Orlando shooting, but the 15 years of unsolved cases on Native American reservations continue to be ignored.

“We should not be treated as third-class citizens,” Stewart-Peregoy said. “We call for justice today, for all those families, all those victims.”

The biggest support needed for Roylynn’s family now is financial, Old Coyote said.

A news release sent out by the family Tuesday included instructions on how to donate. The family has set up an account at Billings Federal Credit Union, 2522 Fourth Ave. N. Donations should be made to the care of Jerry and Ernestine Pretty Weasel.

"The family would like to thank the community for the outpouring of support and for respecting their privacy during this time," the release said.

Previously, a GoFundMe page was set up for the victim. 

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Walking by Faith

Over 100 people marched in a "Walking by Faith" walk on Highway 212 in support of Roylynn Rides Horse in Crow Agency on June 16.

Crow Senator Shawn Real Bird said it was time for Crow Tribal members to have real protection. He said there is only one officer patrolling the reservation at any given time, on a land area larger than the “state of Connecticut.”

“We have a right to be heard, we have a right to be protected and we have a right to live on our reservation in peace and harmony,” Real Bird said.

Real Bird has invited the BIA, FBI, U.S. senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and the U.S. Attorney for the State of Montana Mike Cotter, to join the Crow Legislature on June 27 to discuss needed changes to law enforcement on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Cotter’s office has said they are bound by strict laws that prevent prosecutors from speaking about cases prior to a suspect appearing in court, not dissimilar to the way local district courts operate. Prosecutors in local jurisdictions can release charging information prior to a defendant's first appearance.

BIA press contact with the Department of the Interior, Nedra Darling, has directed all questions to the FBI.

In a letter to The Gazette, the FBI denied pressuring families to stay silent when a crime is committed. When contacted about information, the FBI said it cannot release any information due to "a strict set of rules governing disclosure of information at various phases of a criminal investigation."

In the letter, the agencies for the first time confirmed there was a “severe beating and burning of a woman on the Crow Reservation.”

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Justice reporter for The Billings Gazette.