UHS football shows support for MMIW campaign

UHS football shows support for MMIW campaign
Posted on 10/28/2020
UHS football shows support for MMIW campaignWhen they take the field at Coach Belcher Stadium this Friday night, members of the Uintah High football team will be wearing masks meant to raise awareness about the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) campaign is personal for two Uintah players and their families. Cebron Mountain Lion and Nate Serawop learned in August that their aunt, Akosita “Sita” Kaufusi, had been found dead near the Great Saltair in Salt Lake County. Police are investigating her death as a homicide.

Uintah High football players Cebron Mountain Lion, left, and Nate Serawop wear masks bearing the logo of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign.

“This loss broke the hearts of all their family members and the friends of Sita,” said Cebron’s mom, Mikki Su Mountain Lion, who added that the family wants to “bring awareness of these Stolen Sisters to Uintah High School, to honor the women who have lost their lives throughout the decades.”

Nate’s mom, Fololina Tauaalo, contacted Uintah High football coach Justin DeCol and asked if it would be possible for the team to wear masks with an MMIW design. She said her family is “overwhelmed with gratitude” for DeCol and Uintah High administrators, who approved the request.

“It’s a big thing for our family,” Tauaalo said. “We never expected to lose a close relative like this.”

Far too many families of American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls are affected by similar losses, according to the National Crime Information Center. In 2016, the center reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women in the U.S. The U.S. Justice Department has found that American Indian women are murdered at 10 times the national average. The Ute Indian Tribe has 34 known cases of MMIW dating back to the 1950s, according to Mikki Su Mountain Lion.

“Many native families are personally affected by these tragedies,” she said. “Many have at least one relative or friend that became a Stolen Sister.”

For DeCol, the request by Nate’s mom was an easy one to grant.

“The chance to support the MMIW campaign is a unique opportunity for our team,” the first-year head coach said. “Both Nate and Cebron are very dear to their teammates and to our coaching staff.”

DeCol noted that the first of the football program’s four core values is respect for women, which perfectly complements the MMIW campaign.

“We want our players to grow up to be great community leaders, husbands and fathers,” he said. “It’s our belief that respect for women is vital to this goal, and we are grateful as a program for a chance to bring greater awareness to the challenges facing indigenous women in our area.”

No arrests have been made in the death of Akosita Kaufusi. Anyone with information about the case should call the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake at 801-743-7000.

For more information about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign, visit www.mmiwusa.org.

The Uintah Utes will wear their MMIW masks during a special Friday Night Lights event on Friday, Oct. 30, at Coach Belcher Stadium in Vernal. Gates open at 4 p.m. The community is invited to come help Uintah High celebrate its football seniors and close out the 2020 season.
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