A group of more than 30 people gathered at Heritage Square in the falling snow Wednesday evening.

They were there with signs and candles to remember Nicole Joe and all of the other Native American mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and female friends who have been injured or killed due to domestic violence.

Joe died on Christmas Day after her boyfriend, Vaughn Seumptewa, allegedly beat her and left her outside in the cold for several hours before dragging her inside an apartment, where she later died.

Joe’s sister, Sarafina “Sophie” Joe, and Joe’s aunt spoke at the vigil about how Joe liked to tell jokes and how she was trying to get her life back on track.

Sophie said the family is still in shock over her sister’s death and the fact that Seumptewa has only been charged with aggravated assault.

“It’s been 52 days since my sister was stolen from our family,” Sophie said. “Our hearts have not stopped aching. We’re still in disbelief.”

She spoke about how her sister loved her children and was doing everything she could to get her life back on track in order to give them the best life she could.

“All she ever wanted was a life with her kids,” Sophie said.

A poster bearing statistics that show the disparity between the incidences of Missing and homeless indigenous women compared to their populati…

Sophie acknowledged that her sister had had problems with alcohol in the past. Joe stumbled and fell off the wagon many times, she said.

“But she was always willing to dust herself off and try again,” Sophie said.

Others at the vigil also spoke about their own family members, mothers, daughters, sisters, and cousins who had been abused or killed by an abusive family member, loved one or spouse.

One woman spoke of how for 10 years she tried to find the man who killed her mother, only to find out that he had died two years after her mother died.

An older man spoke about how watching the abuse of his mother as a child made him vow to never hit a woman.

“We must get over our fear to speak out against this so that all missing or abused indigenous women can be hear,” Sophie said.

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Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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