Artwork dedicated to Native American victim at the 2018 National Missing Children’s Day ceremony
Near the steps of the Great Hall of Justice in Washington D.C., a work of art was displayed for all who took part in the 2018 National Missing Children’s Day ceremony. The painting depicts a sorrowful Native American girl holding a single eagle feather. The painting by Santa Fe, New Mexico, artist Kathleen Piccione is titled “Never Forgotten” and is dedicated to the memory of Ashlynne Mike, a Navajo child abducted and murdered at the age of eleven in May of 2016.
Piccione said she was in the process of painting a Native American child when she learned of the abduction of Ashlynne. “I began sobbing as I saw her picture and heard the horrific story of her death. I couldn’t shake the sick feeling that came over me. Her face would not leave my mind. I walked into my studio and looked at the painting I had been working on for the past month. Her face was sweet and young like Ashlynne, yet it was deeply sad.”
“I knew at that moment I had somehow painted this for Ashlynne, not knowing the tragedy that was about to unfold. I painted an eagle feather in the young girl’s hand to represent Ashlynne and called the painting ‘Never Forgotten,’ dedicating it to her forever.”
Before the start of the Missing Children’s Day ceremony, Piccione and Pamela Foster, mother of Ashlynne, met with John Clark, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), presenting him with a framed print of “Never Forgotten.” The portrait will be displayed at NCMEC’s headquarters in memory of Ashlynne and all missing and abducted Native American and Alaskan Native children. Clark recognized Piccione for her generous donation and for the spirit of her work to bring awareness to the tragedy of child abductions in Indian Country.
“It’s a beautiful painting,” said Clark. “It’s also important that we not forget the families of missing children. When a child goes missing, the heartbreak and pain has a ripple effect. It’s not just the parents who suffer. It’s the brothers, the sisters, the grandmothers, the grandfathers. The aunts, the uncles, the cousins. Extended family and friends. We know caring people want to help, but they often don’t know what to do or what to say.”
Piccione is originally from Wisconsin and has a family with strong ties to law enforcement and public service. She has also worked with tribal youth and community members for years, using art as a way to teach and heal. Santa Fe Print and Images donated its services for the print to be displayed at NCMEC.
Piccione plans to continue collaborating with NCMEC and the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program to raise awareness regarding AMBER Alert in Indian Country and hopes her work will inspire others to do the same.
President Trump signs bill to improve AMBER Alerts on tribal lands
President Donald Trump signed into law a bill on April 13, 2018, that expands the AMBER Alert system to tribal communities. The passage of this legislation comes nearly two years after eleven-year-old Ashlynne Mike was sexually assaulted and murdered on the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico. The Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act gives tribes direct access to federal grants to improve AMBER Alert systems and provide additional training and technical assistance.
“This new law makes critical resources available to protect American Indian children and, we hope, will spare others the loss and suffering endured by Ashlynne’s family,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio.
Friends and family of Ashlynne Mike gathered in Waterflow, New Mexico, the day after the act was signed. Hundreds of people participated in a 5k run, bike race and a visit to Ashlynne’s school for presentations on safety awareness. “It is wonderful to have this AMBER Alert available to all the native nations across the United States,” said Gary Mike, Ashlynne’s father. “But it is also bitter in knowing it had to come in our lives; to have something like this happen to our child to open the eyes of people.”