A Stolen Voice Flipbook PDF
This is a short story I wrote to raise awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women.
FLIP PDF 30.25MB
A Stolen Voice by Devany Hayes
The events and characters in this story are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real life events or persons is coincidental.
Written and illustrated by Devany Hayes 2021
Prologue My name is Kiana. I was going to be 14 years old next week and was supposed to be starting high school in 2 months. I lived in a small town by the coast with my family. Sometimes I hated it and felt trapped, other times I felt like I could never leave because of the connection I had there. To my family, to the land, and my community.
I had so many hopes and dreams for my life, but now I can’t complete them. So instead I’m going to tell you what happened to me, because this is not only my story, but a story of thousands of Indigenous women and girls who disappear and are murdered each year. So, I will begin with how it started.
A luxury housing project came to my town. With 55 brand new condos overlooking the ocean. "Rich People Housing” is what my mom called it, new people will move in and bring higher prices to the area, and with it will come destruction to our environment. The place where they want to put the condos is a huge forest that’s home to local animals, when they tear it down those animals will have no place to go.
I worry that if they continue to build up this area that we will have no place to go as well. But the corporations building these projects don’t care. All they want is money, and that often comes at the expense of people’s lives.
But my town knew that we didn’t want this project to come here.
So we decided to protest. My friends and I made signs and we joined others from our town in the forestry area where the project was planned to be built. We were peaceful and all we asked was for them to cancel the project, but soon police came and they got violent towards us. Spraying us with chemicals and threatening us.
They arrested my uncle and wouldn’t post the bail for him for over a week. When we finally could get him, he told us that we need to keep fighting and that these types of projects never bring good. Even though my community continued to resist, the project went on as planned. Before it was even finished it was already causing problems.
It started with workers coming in from out of town and all of a sudden there were so many men here, it started to feel as if workers outnumbered my town’s population. Then the destruction happened, acres of trees being torn down and the noise of loud machinery filling the air. I felt that it would never be quiet again, it was all I could hear from my bedroom. I’d try to drown out the sound with music but it didn’t help.
As the project continued more and more problems surfaced. It wasn’t just the tearing down of the trees or the pollution to the environment. The crime rate went up with break ins, theft, drug use and assaults. There were used needles and litter everywhere, especially around the temporary housing where the workers lived.
All of these new changes affected everyone’s life in some way or another, but at the time I didn’t know just how badly it would affect mine.
The day I died started out as a normal day. I woke up and made breakfast for my family, my mom went off to work, then I watched TV with my little brother DJ and our grandpa. Since it was Summer I had no school and spent most of my time either with my family or my best friend Rosario. I had plans to hang out with my friend and then later baby sit my little cousins Maya and Destiny while my aunt, uncle, and older cousin Xavier went to a concert out of town.
In the afternoon Rosario texted me to come over, so I grabbed my backpack and the new eyeshadow palette my dad and stepmom had sent me for my birthday and walked to her house. I wanted to become a makeup artist so I couldn’t wait to try it out on my friend. It was a nice day, the sun was out but I could tell it was going to rain later. The walk to her house went by fast, and soon I was at her door calling her to come let me in. She lived in a two story house and I could see her peeking out from her bedroom window. She threw me down her key, and I let myself in.
I had no idea it would be the last time that she would see me.
We spent most of the day talking about our plans for highschool and watching makeup tutorials online. The time went by really fast and before I knew it my mom was texting me asking when I was going to come home. I sent her a quick reply saying I would be home in about an hour.
After I left Rosario’s house I walked my usual way home. She lived by a park which I always cut through, it was quicker than walking around it, the weather was turning cloudy and it looked like it was about to rain so I tried to hurry home.
There weren’t many people out but I did notice someone walking behind me, I felt like he was following me so I tried to walk faster and I reached for my phone to call my friend since I heard that it’s better to be talking to someone when you’re walking alone in case something happens.
But before I could dial her number I felt something hit my head and then it all went dark.
I don’t know how long it’s been, but I woke up to see myself laying there on the ground like I was sleeping. Something startled me and I looked up to see a man in a hoodie, I tried to scream but no sound came out, and he just walked past me. When I turned I saw him with a shovel and then I realized what had happened:
I was dead.
Everything that had happened came flashing back to me all at once, I felt so scared and so angry. I tried to grab him, to throw things at him but nothing seemed to work. He couldn’t see me or even tell I was there watching him, but I had to do something. I couldn’t just let him bury me there, I didn’t even know where I was, it didn’t look like the park that I was in when he kidnapped me.
All I could think of was that I needed to get home to tell my family what had happened to me and where I was. But then how would I communicate with them? How long was I even gone? The sky was turning dark so it must have been hours. My family must be really worried by now. I went to reach for my cell phone, but then I realized it was gone and now that I think about it, would I have even been able to use it?
I felt so sick I just wanted to get out of there, so I started to wander around and try to figure out where I was. The further I walked I started to recognize things like logs stacked up, machinery, a fence and I realized I was near the construction site. That’s where he must have taken me to. So I found the road and began walking back into town. It was so surreal to be walking around and knowing no one could see me. The sky changed colors like I was going through time. Before I knew it I had already walked past Rosario’s house and I was in the park.
Instinctively I went back to the area that I last remembered being in. Everything looked the same as it did when I was alive, but then I looked down and noticed something. My cellphone, abandoned on the ground, but it was lit up and I saw "mom” on the screen. I bent down and tried to pick it up, but it was useless. I couldn’t touch it, frustrated I decided to just continue on home. I walked past some people playing basketball and I wondered if they heard anything? Or if anyone was at the park when it happened.
I continued on to my neighborhood, walking on autopilot until I reached my house. I stood in the front yard and looked through the window to see my mom and my brother. He was standing on the couch looking out the window and my mom was on the phone with a worried look on her face. Was she calling me? Rosario? The police? A car pulled up and my aunt, uncle, and cousins all got out. I followed them to the house where they knocked and my grandpa let them in. Everyone looked so tense and worried.
I’m on the phone with Rosario, she says she hasn’t heard from her either.
I think we should go to the police.
How long has she been missing?
It’s been over two hours since I last heard from her.
Let’s go pick up Rosario and go to the police station and see if they can help us.
Should we drive around and look for her?
Yes that’s a good idea, you guys go, Grandma can stay here with the kids and we will go to the police.
Rosario, we are gonna go pick you up, we’ll be there in a few minutes so be ready.
My mom hung up the phone, then she and my grandpa grabbed their shoes and went out the door. I followed them to the car and soon realized I was able to go inside with them. Within minutes we were outside Rosario’s house where she was sitting outside with her older brother, they honked and she ran to the car and got in the back seat, unknowingly sitting right beside me.
Rosario: I texted our other friends from school, and none of them have heard from her either. Mom: I’m so worried, I called everyone and nothing, I just hope we find her. Her phone just rings and rings: this is so unlike her. Grandpa: We will find her, hopefully the police will do something to help us. Rosario: Maybe uncle will find her.
They stop talking as the car arrives at the police station and my mom looks for a parking spot.
I walk behind the three of them
as they enter the police station,
once we are inside one of the officers
looks up and greets them.
What brings you guys in here?
My 13 year old daughter Kiana didn’t come home today and it’s been 2 hours since we’ve heard from her, can you help us?
Did you call her friends?
No one has heard from her, and we’ve looked everywhere. Last time I heard from her she said she was about to come home, but when I call her phone it just keeps ringing, this is not like her.
She’s probably just out smoking or something, she’ll come home.
Kiana doesn’t do drugs though, she left my house and was on her way home. It only takes like 20 minutes to walk.
Maybe she’s with her boyfriend.
My daughter doesn’t have a boyfriend.
Can’t you do an amber alert?
No, we don’t know for sure if she is actually missing.
Well can you have someone help us look for her?
Look, I know you guys like to party, that’s probably what she’s out doing or maybe she ran away. I can’t help you keep your kid under control.
So you’re not gonna help us?
There’s isn’t anything we can do.
I watch as my family and best friend stand there in disbelief before the policeman tells them they need to leave. Tears streaming down their faces, they turn their backs and leave the police station. I walk out with them hearing them cry and it breaks my heart knowing they were treated this way. But deep down I’m not surprised, Indigenous people have never been treated well by police, and this experience of my family’s mirrors that of families all over the country.
I listen in as I hear my mom come to the conclusion that they will have to take matters into their own hands and form a search party. She and my grandpa both get on their phones calling their friends, coworkers, and our neighbors asking them if they can help search for me.
A Group of people I knew set out to look for me, breaking up into teams. They each searched our town: the neighborhood I grew up in, the stores I used to shop at with my family, the park we would all hang out and have bbqs at. They walked all over asking people if they had seen me, looking around with flashlights and calling out my name. I shifted from group to group hoping I could somehow influence them to go to the place where I knew I was now buried.
While following around my cousin, aunt, and uncle as they searched the park for me I watched them find my phone on the ground. My cousin picked it and recognized the picture of my younger brother and I as my phone cover. He told his parents it was mine, and my aunt called my mom to tell her. They decided to go back to the police and tell them what they found. I followed them there after they told my mom they would meet her at the police station.
When we arrived my mom was already outside with my grandpa. My grandpa and uncle said they would go in and talk to them, so my mom, aunt, and older cousin would wait in the parking lot. I decided to stay outside, I couldn’t bear to leave my mom. It seemed that only minutes had passed when they walked back out to tell us that the police still wouldn’t do anything. They were told that the cell phone just wasn’t enough to prove I was missing and not just "another runaway” and that people especially teens "lose their cell phones all the time”.
After hours of searching, my family went home without me that night, they left the door unlocked and slept in the living room hoping that I would come home.
The days since I went missing turned into weeks, but their search continued. They put posters with my face on it, and my family started searching the surrounding areas for me. They kept going back to the police. But they considered me a runaway, so there was nothing they could (or more likely would) do. I stayed with my family this whole time, watching them and wishing I could reach out and give them a hug. It was hard on all of them, but I really felt for my little brother because he was only 5 years old and way too young to be going through this.
Yet here he was and I could see how badly it was affecting him. Instead of playing with his toys or our cousins he spent his time sitting on the couch in front of the TV or napping in my room. And my poor grandparents, they had already been through so much in their lives, this was the last thing they should have had to experience. Obviously they were and had been worried, but I think it was starting to feel more real to them that I wasn’t coming home.
My dad flew in from out of state as soon as he could, so he could be there for my family.
It had been a long time since we had seen him because he lived so far away and was always busy with work, plus he and his wife had two little boys. But I think it was good for my brother to see our dad because it gave him a distraction.
As the seasons changed and more girls and women went missing, I heard my family talk about them. I saw the posters their own families had put up around town.
Nothing was being done for them, and I wondered, would it be like this if we were white? Some of the families including my own would meet and try to offer support for each other, talk about their grief, share stories of their loved ones, and organize search parties.
By now it was pretty obvious to everybody what was going on, it wasn’t a coincidence that people started going missing around the same time that all these workers came to our community. We lived in a very small rural area where everyone knew each other, but now there were so many strangers, it was scary. These men had no connection to the area, they simply flew out to work, and then when the job was done flew home.
The day before high school was going to start I made the journey to my best friend’s house to check on her and see how she was doing. I hadn’t been to see her in a while because I was so focused on my family. On the way there I didn’t walk through the park like I usually do, it was too painful for me. Instead I took the long way walking through my neighborhood, I ended up drifting into town to see if it had changed. As I walked down the streets I noticed others like me walking around too, girls and women who had died recently trying to figure out what had happened to them or maybe looking for their family. Some of them I recognized, others I did not. I wondered if we had had the same killer, or if there were different ones.
After a while I ended walking back towards my friend’s house, by now I learned that I could just float in through the door, I didn’t have to wait for anyone to open it. Her house was quiet, with the only noises coming from the tv in the living room where her older brother Juan was sleeping and from the hum of the refrigerator. I continued on up the stairs until I came to my best friend’s room. The door was ajar and I saw that her normally tidy room was a mess: clothes, dirty plates, and empty water bottles strewn everywhere. She was sitting on her bed with earphones in on her laptop watching something. I guess since I was kidnapped her parents had not really let her out of their sight, so she spent all of her time in her room unless she was with her older brother.
But this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, we had planned this for years, our first day of high school together. And now she is going alone... I went to school with Rosario and Juan the next morning, but I didn’t stay the whole day. It was weird being there in the unfamiliar building, not sure what else to do so I went back home. My little brother wasn’t in school yet so I couldn’t visit him, and I already saw Xavier there. So I left and walked home.
When I got to my house there was a tension that filled the air. I knew that something had happened so I went further into the house and found my mom standing in the kitchen, she had gotten a phone call, the police had found me. Someone in the area had anonymously reported finding a body, and the police were able to identify it as mine. Sadness washed over my mom’s face as she called for my family to come into the room. She couldn’t stop crying as she told them what had happened.
Even though I was found and my family was able to mourn me and have some closure, we never got justice. My killer was never found, in fact the police would not admit that I was murdered. Instead my death was labeled natural causes. Originally they considered my death an overdose, but when my toxicology report came back with no substances in my system, they were forced to drop it.
Epilogue The aftermath of the luxury housing project had a lasting effect on my town. When new families moved into the finished condos, my town’s population increased which led to it needing more resources. So more projects came in the form of stores and strip malls.
Then prices in the area started going up, meaning a lot of people couldn’t afford to live there anymore. Companies took advantage of this and offered to buy up peoples homes so they could use the land for future projects.
But my friends and family continued to protest these projects to raise awareness of the violence and destruction they cause to both people and the environment. They didn’t know what the future for them would look like, just that at the moment the world they were living in was turning into a dystopia.
Completely unrecognizable from what it was like before.
I wrote this story to raise awareness for the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous women) movement. This movement was created by Indigenous women.
Although Kiana’s story is fictional, it reflects the real stories of Indigenous people around the world. Every year in the US and Canada alone thousands of Indigenous women and girls go missing and are murdered. In fact Indigenous women in the US are more likely to be sexually assaulted, murdered, or experience violence than other ethnicities. In addition to this, police often do not take Indigenous people seriously when they are reporting crimes. This violence is also increased by environmental issues. Land development projects such as pipelines are not only harming nature, but people as well. Like in Kiana’s story the increase of temporary workers to areas is leading to more violence and higher crime rates.
You can help spread awareness to this issue by learning more about it and telling others. A great way to find more information is by reading or listening to content made by Indigenous people, as well as sharing Indigenous people’s posts on social media.
More Information: The Day of Remembrance for MMIW is May 5 Hashtags: #MMIW #NoMoreStolenSisters #MMIWG2S Symbols: Red Handprint, Red Dress
Resources To get help:
https://www.rainn.org/(US) https://czech.ihollaback.org/en/(CZ) https://endingviolencecanada.org/gettinghelp-2/(CA) http://www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/ index.html(CA, for Indigenous youth)
To learn more: North America Wikipedia page for MMIW
"Understanding How the Laws Encourage Violence History of MMIW” https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1tyx1lFhVX0&t=1s
Latin America (En Español) Wikipedia por movimento de Ni Una Menos
Oficial Ni Una Menos
Here are some questions you can answer and discuss with your friends or classmates after reading and sharing the story with them.
What is your opinion on this story?
What are some of the issues addressed in this story?
Is there any part of the story that stood out to you the most?
Did you know about this issue before reading this story?
What are some ideas you can come up with to raise awareness about this issue?
This story is dedicated to Indigenous people everywhere whose lives were taken from them.