A group of roughly 100 people gathered at the Oklahoma state capitol yesterday to pay tribute to and demand justice for Naomi Whitecrow, a 2 year old Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member killed in 2009 while in the care of a foster family. The foster mother, Amy Holder, of Edmond, Oklahoma was found guilty in October of child abuse and after about 10 hours of deliberation the jury recommended a $5,000 fine but no jail time. After word of the jury’s recommendation was released, outrage sparked throughout the Indian community as family members, friends, and total strangers struggled to understand how the brutal murder of a child could result in a mere fine.
Formal sentencing was set for November 7th in Guthrie, Oklahoma and many participants vowed to be present there as well to show support for Naomi. The event coordinator, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune editor Rosemary Stephens, opened the event by introducing Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Janice Prairie Chief Boswell who welcomed the participants and encourage continued awareness of Naomi’s case and the need for stricter laws regarding child abuse.
The Campaign Justice for Naomi rally brought about supporters protesting for more consistent and harsher penalties for those found guilty in the death of a child in foster care. Debby Whitecrow, Naomi’s aunt, told supporters and media members the family wanted Holder held accountable and felt the punishment in no way fit the crime. “We want justice that is what we are looking for in all of this. We are here to remember her life and the life she is no longer going to be able to live with us.”
Glenda Deer, a Kickapoo tribal member from Shawnee, Oklahoma and outspoken supporter of the event, wrote the following on the Facebook event page she created make the public aware of the sentencing date, “$5,000 for killing a Indian child in 2011?!… Our Indian kids are priceless….there is NO amount of $ that can be set on ANY child…I SAY PACK THE COURTROOM NOVEMBER (7th)…!!! LET GUTHERIE FEEL THE PRESENCE OF INDIAN PEOPLE! There is no JUSTICE for indian people…it really is “JUST US”
After reviewing the medical examiner’s report and photographs, forensic pathologist Dr. Dean A. Hawley (Indiana University School of Medicine) determined that Naomi had died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, abdomen, and extremities.
The arrest warrant, signed by District Attorney Vincent Antonioli reads, “Child abuse – a felony, on or between the 12th day of September, 2008 through the 20th day of January, 2009, by maliciously failing to provide minimum, proper, and medical attention to N.W., age 2, while she was in the care and custody of the defendant as a foster child, and performed unnecessary physical procedures on the aforementioned N.W., causing the following physical injuries from the resulting blunt force trauma, to wit: pancreatic hemorrhage; fat necrosis; multiple contusions and abrasion of her face and scalp; fresh left occipital subarachnod hemorrhage; left occipital and parietal cerebral cortical contusions; contusions to the back, back of the head, front and back of legs, and buttocks.
This crime is punishable by for imprisonment for up to life and/or 1 year in the Logan County Jail and a fine of between $500.00 and $5000.00, or both.”
Yolanda Bluehorse, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spoke openly and emotionally at yesterday’s rally, recalling her own daughter’s murder at the hands of a trusted caregiver. Bluehorse was there to support the family and remember Naomi. “I’m here to support the family. I’m here for the little girl, for Naomi Whitecrow.” After fighting the state of Texas to bring her own daughter’s killer to justice, Bluehorse was visibly upset at the jury’s recommendation for the $5,000.00 fine. “A monetary amount. Really? Does that mean anyone found guilty just pays a fine? Are we putting a price on child abuse?”
As the clouds grew dark and the wind grew cold, the crowd remained steadfast as several tribal members and activists stood and spoke of the need for justice and changes in current laws. Supporters from many different ethnic backgrounds held signs adorned with Naomi’s photo, with phrases such as, “Justice For Naomi,” “Is This Going to Happen Again,” and “Please Give Me a Voice.” Rally-goers were given pins with Naomi’s photo that read, “Justice For Naomi” and a white ribbon, to reflect and remind everyone of the innocence of our children.
The loss of that innocence was still apparent as Naomi’s mother, Kala Whitecrow, stood to thank supporters for attending but could only say a few words before she began to weep. “I’m sorry, I’m just too emotional, I can’t do this.” Audible sobs were heard from the crowd as Whitecrow nearly collapsed into the arms of her mother, sister, and Rosemary Stephens.
As the women stepped away from the podium and the final prayer was about to be offered, a light gentle rain began to fall. Ben Carnes, a Choctaw tribal member who had spoken earlier in the event, quietly requested to address the crowd again. With the raindrops apparent on his face, Carnes spoke to Naomi’s mother. “I’m a member of the Choctaw Nation and they say Amy Holder is Choctaw. From my nation to yours, I apologize for what she done.” He lifted a hand to the sky. “In our tradition, a soft gentle rain is a feminine rain. You can be sure little Naomi is up there right now watching us and smiling.” He bowed his head and paused for a moment, then lifted his eyes to the clouds. “It’s a feminine rain but it’s also a healing rain if we let it be.”
As the event ended, those who were there to pay tribute to and demand justice for a little girl many had never met, stood in silence as the soft gentle rain not only touched their face, hair, and jackets, but their very souls.
A soft, gentle, feminine rain. A healing rain. Naomi’s rain.
Amy Holder arrest warrant (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).
Edmond Woman Convicted of Child Abuse in Death of Foster Child KOTV News 6 Oklahoma City:
This article was first published on CNN iReport by Raz’n Cain entitled Naomi’s Rain. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.