Navajo Woman Is Walking from Arizona to DC to Raise Awareness for Missing Indigenous Women, Including Her Aunt

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 63-year-old Ella Mae Begay disappeared from Sweetwater, Ariz., on June 15, 2021

Seraphine Warren, who walked for indigenous women
Seraphine Warren. Photo: Trailing Ellamae/Facebook

After a 2,400-mile trek on foot, a Navajo woman whose aunt vanished over a year ago, arrived in Washington D.C. on a mission: to call attention to the growing number of murdered and missing Indigenous women whose cases go unsolved.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 63-year-old Ella Mae Begay disappeared from Sweetwater, Ariz., on June 15, 2021.

KPNX-TV reports she was last seen driving away from her Navajo Nation home in a silver pickup truck around 2:30 a.m. that morning.

"She never came back. She would not answer her phone calls or nothing," her niece Seraphine Warren, who started walking on the anniversary of Begay's disappearance this year, told the outlet in June. "They said it seems like she left willingly."

Dissatisfied with Navajo Nation's lack of investigation into her aunt's disappearance, Warren has taken it upon herself to highlight the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

Ella Mae Begay
Ella Mae Begay. BIA

With a prayer staff in hand, the four-month journey to the nation's capital, during which Warren endured an ankle injury and a dog bite, wasn't easy. She told The Washington Post she cycled through 15 pairs of running shoes and braved the elements — both the blistering heat and the biting cold.

The people she walked for gave her the "strength to keep going. They motivated me," she said, per the outlet. "Every day they motivated me."

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Finally on Tuesday, Warren met with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, according to the outlet, who "generally listened" to her concerns.

Warren demanded lawmakers probe the tribal police's handling of missing and murdered persons cases, as well as provide support and resources to grieving families.

"We need search and rescue teams," she told The Washington Post. "We need equipment like ATVs, drones, helicopters, sonar for water. We have families on foot searching. We need cadaver dogs. We need funding for billboards and rewards. We need our own medical examiners. Our tradition calls for burying our loved ones within four days and we can't."

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs, citing the National Crime Information Center, a 2016 report showed there were 5,712 missing Indigenous women and girls, but only 116 of those cases were logged into the federal missing person's database.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates there are approximately 4,200 unsolved missing and murdered cases.

Despite the statistics, Warren is holding out hope she will find her beloved aunt alive and safe.

"I don't want to find her remains," she told The Post. "I don't want to find her in that way."

She added, "I need my aunt back. I want healing."

Related Articles