Just two weeks after a U.S. Senate hearing on missing and murdered indigenous women, the body of 14-year-old Henny Scott was found on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeastern Montana.
She was one of countless indigenous women and girls who have gone missing in cities and rural communities across the United States and Canada. Many have not been found.
Henny Scott's body was found late last month, about three weeks after her mother last spoke with her.
On Saturday, her family held a funeral on the reservation.
There was a large white teepee set up in front of Henny’s home and a fire in front of it.
People came and went in the hours before the funeral, and family friend Dean Wallowing Bull was among them.
He said both the teepee and the fire were to honor the deceased.
“This fire will burn until they get ready to go and lay her to rest, and then the fire will be extinguished. It’ll go out like our lives,” said Wallowing Bull.
On December 28, a search party discovered the body of 14-year-old Henny Scott outside Lame Deer.
Henny’s mother, Paula Castro-Stops, sat in the tepee and talked about Henny - how her daughter’s happiness was infectious and how much she loved basketball.
“She was into everything,” said Castro-Stops. “There was nothing she couldn’t do. She could do it all. She started taking up beading, which I was proud of. She started learning Sheyenne. And her teacher commented how well she was doing and how well she was saying the words, and that made me proud.”
Castro-Stops also spoke about the difficulty of getting help from authorities when she noticed her daughter was missing. She said she had to talk with law enforcement on both the Northern Cheyenne and the Crow reservations before they stepped in.
Castro-Stops said she wants to see that change.
“I want something done,” said Castro-Stops. “I want a process to where it’s not gonna take this long, you don’t have to jump through hoops, that they do their job and take you seriously. Not say, ‘She’s at her friend’s house. Have you looked over there?’ or ‘Maybe she’s got a new boyfriend. Maybe you should find out who he is and go look over there.’”
Castro-Stops, together with Wallowing Bull and other members of the community, are trying to change what they see as a flawed system.
Wallowing Bull asked people to wear red and black to the funeral to represent missing and murdered indigenous women, and when it came time for the funeral, people followed his request.
They gathered in the gym at Lame Deer High School, where Henny was a student, and sat on bleachers and plastic seats.
Many of Henny’s classmates and friends attended, and some spoke about their memories of her, like
Tonielle Shoulderblade, who said Henny was like a little sister to her.
“She was a sweet, loving girl,” said Shoulderblade. “Her smile, you could just go into a room, and she would just light it up. Her hugs were the best, her laugh.”
At the service, the pastor announced a march will be held on Wednesday, the day Henny would have turned 15.
Wallowing Bull said they want to remember Henny. They also want to remember her death and the actions that followed.
So far, the conditions surrounding Henny Scott’s death are unknown.
Edit 1/08: A former version of this story incorrectly said Henny Scott's body was found by a creek.