CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Football Team Raises Awareness Of Missing, Murdered Indigenous Woman With Special Masks

Oct 31, 2020, 12:22 PM | Updated: 3:22 pm

VERNAL, Utah – Players and coaches on the Uintah High School football team wore special masks during their playoff game to raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Student athletes can learn a lot of things from football, like dedication, sportsmanship, and teamwork. At their game Friday night, players also learned about something more important than the final score.

When their game ended in Vernal, players got to go home with their families. Everyone who was at the game now knows thousands of women never got to go home.

Teammates Cebron Mountain Lion and Nate Serawop’s aunt, 42-year old Akosita Kaufusi’s, was shot to death in August.

Her body was later found near Saltair in Salt Lake County.

During Kaufusi’s funeral in September, family members talked about how much they loved and missed her.

“Losing her destroyed our family,” said Kelo Kaufusi, Akosita’s father.

Murder is the third leading cause of death for indigenous women. 

According to the National Crime Information Center, there were 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States.

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 dating back to the 1950s, according to Cebron’s mother, Mikki Su Mountain Lion.

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

(Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football) (Photo courtesy Uintah High School Football)

When Uintah players took the field wearing those masks, it gave the often unspoken issue a stage where winning is important, but like with any good lesson, there’s so much more.

That’s why Uintah football coach Justin DeCol supported his players wearing the special masks.

“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.”

Detectives with the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake City continue to investigate Kaufusi’s death.

Anyone with information should contact Unified Police at 801-743-7000.

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

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Football Team Raises Awareness Of Missing, Murdered Indigenous Woman With Special Masks