Police in Billings, Montana, confirmed Tuesday that on May 16, officers were sent to a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the state’s largest city to report that a 23-year-old woman had been assaulted.
Silver Little Eagle, the victim and a councilor of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was taken to a medical facility in an ambulance for treatment of injuries. No arrests were made and no charges were brought until Tuesday morning.
Billings Police did not name Little Eagle directly in the statement, but instead confirmed in an email to the Great Falls Tribune that Little Eagle was the victim of the alleged attack.
Officers learned that Little Eagle was missing personal property and her vehicle, which were later found by officers, according to a press release. A 31-year-old man is said to have been attacked at the same time and location as Little Eagle.
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Two women, aged 25 and 27, were identified as interested persons and “are actively sought by investigators for questioning,” says the press release. Officers believe there is a link between the 31-year-old man and the 27-year-old woman of interest.
The department also wrote, “There is no evidence that the crime was racially motivated or related to human trafficking.”
News of the incident spread across the country, sparking criticism and outrage. Some condemned the lack of media coverage, others called for justice, and some turned to social media to claim the councilor lied about the severity of her injuries.
Billings Police Department said they would “not provide any information about the severity of the injury”. Little Eagle and other members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council were not immediately available to comment.
Little Eagle’s family issued a statement on May 20, entitled “She Suffered Serious Physical Injuries” and was “Left for Dead.” A family friend also created a GoFundMe, which on Tuesday raised more than $ 25,000 to help cover medical expenses.
Since the incident, her family has written that Little Eagle has faced “further threats of violence, cyberbullying, character defamation and harassment from the attackers and people in their own community”.
Silver’s father, Goldstein Little Eagle, said claims that Silver did not suffer any life-threatening injuries were false.
“She was badly beaten and was in the hospital. She’s resting and now recovering and healing,” he said. “Any woman who has experienced violence should be taken very seriously. It’s pretty hurtful right now when all the slander and gossip is going on.”
Little Eagle, who turned 24 on Monday, ran as a candidate for enrollment for the council in 2020. The election was historic as the Northern Cheyenne Nation elected all candidates for its tribal president, vice president and five open council offices.
Indigenous peoples experience disproportionately high levels of violence. A 2016 report by the National Institute of Justice found that more than four in five indigenous peoples had experienced violence in their lifetime.
Nora Mabie covers indigenous communities for the Great Falls Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.