Niece of missing Diné woman walks to D.C. to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women
Ella Mae Begay went missing more than a year ago from her home in Sweetwater, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. There have been few clues to her disappearance, according to law enforcement, and her family is desperate for answers. Begay’s niece, Seraphine Warren has not stopped searching.
This summer, on the one-year anniversary of her aunt’s disappearance, Seraphine decided to walk from the Navajo Nation all the way to Washington, D.C. Her mission was to raise awareness not only for her missing aunt, but for the growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women worldwide.
Seraphine Warren spoke to KNAU’s Sakya Calsoyas about her journey.
Sakya Calsoyas: Hello, Seraphine. Thank you so much for speaking with us. Can you tell us about your aunt Ella Mae, and who is she and what's she like?
Seraphine Warren: She is reserved. She is a master rug weaver. She has three kids, one son and daughter. She has eight grandkids and I think two great, great grandkids. She's a widow, her husband was murdered 21 years ago. Pretty much my aunt.... I don't know if you've ever met somebody that has been to boarding school and they're real well-behaved. They have a routine that they can't break from it.
SC: Can you tell us about what you know about her disappearance?
SW: My aunt Ella Mae, she went missing June 15th of last year. And all the stories are just different. So I still don't understand what had happened. I can't really at this point they are investigating it as a homicide. I had a lot of time thinking about what to do, especially not knowing the answers and when you're missing a loved one. I feel like you're constantly running over scenarios, especially when somebody comes out and tells you about something they seen that day that might relate to my aunt or something maybe they've heard.
SC: You did this amazing, arduous trek across the country. Can you tell me why you did that and what it was like on that trip?
SW: So, this walk, it was pretty much to heal for my on my end because I do not understand what I'm doing. It seems like even family that are affected by this, they too don't know what to do next. I mean, I ended my walk October 9th in D.C. My mission was to speak to somebody that would just get up and just do something instead of following these procedures and these policies. I mean, this missing and murdered is not it's nothing new. It's not something that you should just sit around at a table and talk about strategies. I think you should just got up and just do something.
SC: You documented the whole trek, but you also posted other family’s fliers for their missing loved ones. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like?
SW: This prayer walk, it was for them, the missing and murdered, and the families to heal and to find closure. And so, to do that, to highlight their story that was helping me also to tell the leaders and everybody who is watching that this is a problem. We need major help. And so, I started out with just the families that I knew first, and then there was people that messaged that wanted me to walk for their loved ones. And it was cool that some of the family members, they would, at the end of the day, when I finish posting pictures of what the day was like walking for this family, they found their connections of how their loved one might have been there or had a connection with them in that way. So that was that was motivating for me, too, to wait for the next day to see who I'm walking for and what I would see for them also.
SC: So, your aunt Ella Mae is still missing, where do you find the strength to continue?
SW: I have to be doing something for her every day. I do not believe my aunt is missing. I do not believe my aunt is murdered. If that's the case, for all these missing, murdered, they didn't do that to them. Like we're, it feels like we're giving the people that's responsible the upper hand. We're putting a title on this, and even just keeping my aunt's name alive right now, that makes a lot of people feel like she's, she's alive. We're just.... she's just here, and that they have hope. I know that she would have been very proud. I know that she would have pushed me to keep going.
SC: Thank you so much for getting home safely after your long trip, and thank you Seraphine for speaking with us today.
If you have any information concerning the disappearance of Ella Mae Begay, please contact your local FBI office.
For updates and more information on the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people, you can visit https://mmiwusa.org/ https://www.bia.gov/service/mmu/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-people-crisis https://www.justice.gov/tribal/mmip