By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn, a 15-month-old EBCI member, was pronounced dead at Cherokee Indian Hospital on the morning of Jan. 10, 2011. Her tragic death was thoroughly investigated and resulted in her aunt, Lady Bird Powell, being charged with Second Degree Murder, two counts of Felony Child Abuse and other charges relating to her death.
Over 80 people came out on the morning of Wednesday, April 25 to support the 1st Annual Aubrey Littlejohn Walk Against Child Abuse through downtown Cherokee. The walk was sponsored by the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center in Cherokee and was held in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month (April).
“The walk is a collaboration as a memorial walk for Aubrey,” said Jennifer Standingdeer, victim coordinator at Child Advocacy Center. She said hopefully this will be a kick-off event for the Week of the Young Child in the future.
“It’s a way to let people know about what’s going on with the children and that they need to be protected,” Karen Swayney, Aubrey’s great-aunt, said of the reason for the walk. “With Aubrey, she wasn’t, and I don’t think it should happen again.”
Ruth McCoy, Aubrey’s great-aunt, commented, “I think it’s (walk) is a good thing and I hope it continues because I think there’s been a lot of child abuse in Cherokee on the reservation and it just needs to have more awareness. I’m glad that we’ve joined with Heart to Heart to make people aware of what goes on on our reservation.”
Becky Walker, a social worker with the BIA Cherokee Agency Department of Social Services, commented, “What we want to do is bring awareness to the child abuse that occurs in Indian Country, especially in our community, and we want to remind people that they are responsible to report neglect and abuse.”
She added, “Any adult over 18 is a mandatory reporter so if you suspect neglect or abuse of any children in the community or surrounding communities, it is your responsibility to report it to the Department of Social Services in the county in which those children live.”
“We also wanted to walk in memory of Aubrey so that her death does not go in vain, and so that we make it a point to bring awareness to what happens in our community,” said Walker. “And, I think at one time, our children were very important to us, the most important thing, and I think sometimes we still say that. But, I really feel that if that was true we wouldn’t be here today.”
Following the walk, Walker gave some startling statistics that were compiled by the Child Advocacy Center. In 2011, there were 35 cases of child neglect, 85 cases of physical abuse and 135 cases of sexual abuse reported to the Child Advocacy Center.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks thanked the participants and the organizers of Wednesday’s event, and he reiterated the need to report any suspected child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities.
He related, “I want to assure you that we are working on a new model for social services that hopefully will help address some of these issues and give strength to some of our processes.”
Chief Hicks concluded by saying, “There’s only one direction and that’s to make sure that we give strength to the children of our Tribe.”
Note: It is important to remember that the person named above has only been charged with a crime and should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
To view more photos from this event, please visit the One Feather photo gallery at: https://www.theonefeather.com/photo-galleries-2/