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RITA PAPAKEE CASE UPDATE– MISSING SINCE JANUARY 2015
Meskwaki Settlement, Iowa, July 2020 – On July 8, 2020, the Meskwaki Tribal Council voted to increase the reward from $50,000 to $75,000 for information leading to the whereabouts of Rita Janelle Papakee. The Meskwaki Nation Police Department encourages the people who know what happened to Papakee to come forward.
Chief of Police Jacob Molitor stated, “We are troubled that Papakee has not been located but we have faith that someone will do the right thing and report where she is. We appreciate the support of the Tribal Council in our continued investigation, and for raising the reward amount to assist in locating her. Rita’s family and community deserve to have her home.”
Molitor explained, “It is known that Papakee was alive on January 16, 2015 because she was seen leaving the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, but no one saw her after. Since then, the department has held an on-going investigation. We have conducted countless hours’ worth of interviews in and outside of our immediate area, posted missing person fliers, hosted volunteer search parties, and reached out to other agencies to assist with the case.”
In May 2019, the family, with the help of the Meskwaki Tribal Council and MNPD, held a week and a half long search of various places across the Settlement and Tama County. In January 2020, the Meskwaki Tribal Council raised the initial reward of $25,000 to $50,000. This month, they raised the reward again, to $75,000.
Over the years, the MNPD has responded to numerous tips on her whereabouts along with frequent calls of suspicious items located in the woods and other areas that might have belonged to her. Although some details have been exposed, more information is needed. It is time that the mystery of Rita Papakee’s disappearance comes to light.
Based on the information discovered, Molitor believes that there are only a select few people that have the information they are all looking for in regards to her whereabouts. Although disheartened that the exact details have not yet been uncovered, he believes the department is one solid tip away from locating her.
“This disappearance has, without a doubt, caused a toll and burden on the minds and lives of Papakee’s family and the community as a whole,” Molitor stated. “All we can ask for is that the community keeps the conversation about her alive and provides any and all tips so that we can discover the truth. If you know anything that could help in the investigation, please speak up.”
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 the department’s anonymous tip line at (641) 481-0840.
To highlight women’s heritage and recognize strong women leaders, the Iowa Department of Human Rights through the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) recently announced their 2020 inductees into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Meskwaki Nation is proud to announce that Mary Young Bear has been selected as one of the four recipients who will be inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame later this year.
According to ICSW’s press release, “Mary Elizabeth Young Bear (Tama, Iowa): Born with the Meskawki name of Bo na bi go, her contributions as an artist and art conservator, educator, cultural historian, civic leader and political activist, humanitarian, community leader and mentor inspire, empower, and motivate all those around her, especially young women and girls. Her pride is as a mother and grandmother with a family heritage of Iowa ancestry since the 1840s.”
Mary has worked at the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum as Art Conservator and Curator of textiles, beadwork, art, and a variety of regalia and artifacts since 2012. She has helped curate the largest collection of Meskwaki cultural objects in the world. Besides exhibit preparation and maintenance, Mary leads workshops to revitalize tribal arts, hosts academic symposiums, and teaches visitors from around the world or Iowans in local communities about tribal history.
Her artwork has been recognized by the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Denver Art Museum, Dubuque Museum of Art, Art Educators of Iowa, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Arts Council, Meskwaki Nation, and others – placing her among leading American artists.
Mary is a well-respected leader in many facets of community life. People of all ages, but especially young people, seek her wise counsel and look to her as a mentor. She sets the highest standards for herself and those around her, inspiring others to become resourceful achievers and creative problem solvers who contribute to the betterment of their community.
Mary’s accomplishments as humanitarian, artist, art conservator, curator, cultural historian, educator, school board member, civic leader, political activist, role model, traditional cook, homemaker, mother, and grandmother will garner long-term significance in preserving a lasting historical narrative for her. She is a leader deserving of this award for carrying on the cultural traditions of the Meskwaki people.
Each year, the ceremony is held near the date that women won the right to vote in the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inductees will be digitally awarded in lieu of an in person award presentation.
The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1975. 184 women have been given the prestigious award. Mary is the second Meskwaki woman to be inducted, with the first being Adeline Wanatee in 1993.
Shelter-in-place orders will remain in effect through Friday, May 1st. Tribal Operations to remain closed through May 1st. If the Tribe needs to extend the stay-in-place order after May 1st, all Tribal Operations employees will have a reduction in hours to 32 per week w/ full benefits.
As a reminder, Tribal Council approved the closure of Tribal Operations beginning on Wednesday, March 18th. The closure will remain in effect until Friday, April 3rd as of now and will be re-evaluated, along with the shelter-in-place declaration, on Tuesday, March 31st to determine if closure should be extended.
The Tribal Council is soliciting potential names for a new tribally chartered corporation which will grow and process hemp on the Settlement into a variety of potential products to be marketed by the tribe. Deadline for recommendations is December 18th at 12:00pm.
If you have any recommendations, please email
Joseph VanGorp at email@example.com