Conference in Lawton brings attention to missing Indigenous people.

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:17 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Southwest Oklahoma is holding a conference to bring attention to missing Indigenous people, which started Sunday inside the Apache Casino in Lawton.

Gen Hadley, the president of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Southwest Oklahoma, said organizers have been working hard all year long to put this conference together.

Gene ‘Ironman’ Smith is a Native American metal artist who is attending the conference for a special reason.

“My sister, her name is Deni, was killed in Ada, Oklahoma in 1995. Never found the responsible parties for it, the only sister I ever had and she was the perfect sister,” said Smith.

The 4 Directions Conference is a 3-day event whose theme of “strengthening the bridges for missing and murdered Indigenous people” aims to bring awareness.

“The importance of this conference is to let them know that there are resources are there and that they’re not alone because we don’t want them to be alone or feel alone, because it’s pretty overwhelming when your loved one goes missing,” said Hadley.

She said their biggest obstacle has been navigating different jurisdictions, so they invited various law enforcement agencies to speak at the event.

OSBI agent Dale Fine said having a relationship with families and advocacy groups can benefit the police.

“It’s a great sharing of information, it’s helping educate the public on what we can do, what law enforcement does but also hearing their concern their voices and taking that information back help incorporate that into law enforcement training,” said Fine.

Fine has been with OSBI for the past 10 years and was recently named liaison for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous people after the passing of Ida’s law.

He said as a member of the Cherokee nation, he is proud to help bridge this gap.

“It’s a really great opportunity for me. It’s something I’m really passionate about. It’s an opportunity I take very seriously because I know there’s a problem, there’s a crisis,” said Fine.

Smith made the ‘Circle of Life Wheel’ in honor of his sister and chose to donate it to the conference as a raffle item, which will help raise funds for next year’s event.

“It’s comforting to know that something like what happened to my sister, I don’t want happen to any other girl, woman, man, or whatever,” said Smith.

The conference continues tomorrow with more guest speakers, performances, and a silent auction. It is $25 to attend.