All posts by Shannon Mitchell

New Reward Offered for Missing Person Rita Janelle Papakee

Meskwaki Settlement, Iowa – Four years ago today, on January 16th, 2015, Tribal member Rita Janelle Papakee was last seen at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel.  She has not been heard from since.

Over the years, extensive searches on the Meskwaki Settlement and in nearby towns failed to turn up any clues to her whereabouts.  Her suspicious disappearance caused tribal officials to offer a $25,000 reward but no one came forward with any credible information as to what may have happened to her.  Since that fateful day, there has not been a single trace of Rita.

Today, on the 4th anniversary of her disappearance, tribal officials, the Meskwaki Nation Police Department, and her family are asking for renewed help in finding her.  The Meskwaki Tribal Council would like to announce that they have approved an increase in the monetary reward for her return and have increased allocations to $50,000 for anyone willing to come forward with new information that leads to finding Rita.  They urge the people with that knowledge to speak out.

The family is spearheading a number of new initiatives with the full support of council. The tribe has approved a grid field search training to community members and volunteers. Tentatively scheduled for the first week in May when snow and weather issues have improved, efforts will revolve around a meticulous search of the entire Meskwaki Settlement.

The community as a whole is invested in raising awareness of the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Indian Country. “Native American women are victims of violence far greater than any population in the country,” said Tribal Chairman Anthony Waseskuk. “And they are more likely to be assaulted by people who are not Native American.”

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, even though they only represent 0.8 percent of the U.S. population, Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up 1.8 percent of ongoing missing cases. “It’s tragic,” commented Chairman Waseskuk. “Rita’s disappearance has touched us all, individually and as a community.  We are hoping for answers.”

Over the next few months, volunteers are encouraged to help with fundraising efforts and support as we help keep Rita’s memory alive.

One such way is by attending the upcoming Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March (MMIW) to be held on Thursday, February 14, 2019 in Minneapolis.  The event, held by a collaborative of Minneapolis Native organizations, seeks to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, boys, two spirit and transgendered persons by holding an annual community walk on the streets near the Minneapolis American Indian Center each Valentine’s Day.  Participants are asked to wear red as a visible sign of support for the MMIW movement.

Community members wishing to support Rita by attending the march are asked to RSVP to Dara Jefferson, R.I.S.E. Victim Advocate, at (641) 484-4444.  Jefferson will be coordinating efforts for community members to travel to the event.  Anyone wishing to donate gas cards to family members and supporters driving to Minneapolis and people willing to donate red material and/or sew red skirts for the march are asked to contact Jefferson at the number above.  In preparation for the march, an Indian taco and bake sale fundraiser will be held on Friday, January 25th from 11 am to 2 pm and sign painting will be held on Monday, February 4th from 5 pm to 8 pm, both at the Meskwaki Tribal Center.

Rita is a daughter, a mother of four, a sister, an aunt, and a friend.  She is missed and loved by many people.  Rita’s mother, Iris Roberts stated, “There isn’t a single day that goes by that we don’t think about Rita.  Her children, brothers and sisters, and extended family grieve every single day and hope for the chance to bring her home.”

If you know something, it is time to come forward and tell someone.  It is time to do the right thing.  It is time to bring closure to the Papakee and Walker/Roberts families.  It is time to bring her home.

Rita Janelle Papakee has been missing since January 16, 2015.  She was 41 years old, 5’4” tall, had brown hair, brown eyes, and weighed between 145-170 lbs. when she disappeared.  Contact the Meskwaki Nation Police Department with information at (641) 484-4844 or by texting/calling (641) 481-6002.

Weigh-ins Begin Thursday!

The Sett-Fit Challenge will begin next week.  Mark your calendars to stop in anytime and weigh-in.  You’ll receive a $10 Subway gift card!

Weigh-ins are:

Thursday, Jan 10th
8:30 am – 4:30 pm @ Health Clinic

Friday, Jan. 11th
8:30 am – 4:30 pm @ Health Clinic

Saturday, Jan. 12th
8 am – Noon @ Wellness

Challenge starts on
Monday, January 14th.

Meskwaki Bingo Casino & Hotel to Host First Ever State Regulator Meeting

From Radio Iowa:  The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, on Friday, will meet for the first time ever at the Meskwaki Hotel and Casino in Tama.  The casino is run by the Native American Tribe, and is not under the regulation of the state.

IRGC administrator, Brian Ohorilko, says the operators of the Meskwaki facility came up with the idea back when the commission was considering a new gambling license for Cedar Rapids in 2017. “They had asked the commission to come and visit by having a meeting at their property in an effort to really show the impact of another casino in that market,” Ohorilko explains.

He says the Meskwaki leaders were vocal in their opposition to a new casino in Linn County and wanted to show the commission why. “They wanted to demonstrate not only to the commission — but to the Iowa gaming industry the size and scope of their project and what they do — not only for their tribal members, but for the folks in Tama County in terms of employment , the jobs that they offer. And so, they had asked the commission to come for a meeting at that time,” according to Ohorilko. Ohorilko says the commission meeting sites and dates are set well in advance, and it did not work out to have them meet in Tama. But he says they looked at holding a meeting there as they prepared their calendar for this year, and Meskwaki officials were still interested in hosting a meeting. Ohorilko says the meeting will be the same as if they don’t have any formal talks scheduled, but they do expect to get a tour of the facility.

“I do expect that we’ll hear from at least their general manager, maybe more, about their property,” according to Ohorilko. “That is something that is normal — something that is typical when we do visit the casinos around the state.” The IRGC decided not to award a gambling license for a Cedar Rapids casino.

Ohorilko says market studies done prior to the decision did show that the Meskwaki casino is a competitor for more than one state-regulated casinos. “Including Prairie Meadows (Altoona), Waterloo and Riverside and so, there is a market that a number of the properties share. So, I think Tama is one that competes with all three of those markets,” Ohorilko says.

He says the trip to Tama should be educational. “I think it’s important to see what kind of impact they have on the market. The number of employees, the type of technology that they employ, the types of casino games — those are all things that are important — and certainly we can learn something. And I am sure a few of the operators will be interested as well,” Ohorilko says. The Racing and Gaming Commission’s meeting is Friday at 8:30 in the convention center at the Meskwaki Casino Hotel in Tama.

Read the story here:


Notaries At Tribal Center Today

We will have notaries available today at the Tribal Center (Dec. 31) to assist tribal members with updating their current addresses for finance records.  Please bring a valid form of ID with you.

A notary will also be available on Friday from 8 to 4:30 PM to assist.

Please plan to stop in to assist them with updating our membership database.