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Stories of the MMIW: Shacaiah Blue Harding - Missing

According to American Addiction Centers, 19.7 million American adults from the age 12 and up struggled with a substance abuse disorder in 2017. That same year about 38% of adults were battling an addiction to illicit drugs. Though Indigenous people make up only 1.7% of the total population in the United States, they have the highest rates of substance abuse in comparison to other racial groups. Contributing factors to this situation are listed as historical trauma, violence, poverty, high unemployment rates, discrimination, racism, lack of health insurance, and low levels of attained education.

Medium reported that Shacaiah Blue Harding was born on November 28, 1998. Her mother, Tamera Bearcomesout, described her as having a very unique personality and style that was all her own. The girl that cared little for what others thought of her came from a very large, close-knit family. There were many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that saw each other and spoke often. She was very talented at doing hair and make-up as well as making videos. With plans of a career in beauty, Shacaiah wanted to attend cosmetology school. Unfortunately the world would never get to see the full potential of her talent.

In high school she would go to parties, but never drank or took any drugs. Even when everyone else around her was drunk, or getting high, she remained sober. Though she went to the occasional gathering, she really wasn't much for the party scene. She had the kind of outgoing personality that would've served her well among a crowd, but she didn't seem to care much for the clamor. In the spring of 2018, her outlook on drugs seemed to take a major shift in the opposite direction for reasons unknown. According to KULR8, Shacaiah was only 19-years-old at that time, and had become addicted to meth. From what I've managed to learn about the substance on my own it seems that only one use is all it takes for one to become completely and fully addicted.

During this point in her life, Shacaiah was also becoming more independent. She was a legal adult and at the age to be taking on more responsibility. For the first time, she was going for days at a time without seeing or talking to members of her family.

A cousin of her's would start to take notice of strange behavior. When he would point it out, she would attempt to straighten up and act normally as though nothing were off. Her entire family was starting to worry about her and the odd way she was acting. This had been so out of character for her before. Suddenly it was as though they all had to stop and reconsider what was normal for Shacaiah at this junction of her life.

On July 5, 2018, she went to visit her mother, returning a cell phone to her. Tamera thought this to be a little odd. The phone that she was returning was one that she typically didn't like to give up willingly. After a few weeks, members of her family began to talk. They realized that no one had heard from Shacaiah in all that time. They started looking for her on their own initially, checking with people she knew and places she was known to frequent. No one had seen her.

Knowing that she had a tendency to disappear for days at a time, the family tried to keep searching on their own before contacting authorities. Unfortunately cases of transient people with substance abuse disorders don't receive much attention. Cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women get even less attention much of the time. Sadly, Shacaiah fell into all of these categories. Her family already knew the uphill battle they were going to face.

They found that she had been seen walking on Buena Vista Drive in Billings, Montana at 4:00 on the evening of July 25, 2018. The identity of the person that saw her that day has never been confirmed. Rumors circulating at that time stated that Shacaiah had just gotten out of a relationship.

She was known to be active on social media and had multiple accounts. Three Facebook accounts and an Instagram profile were her links to the world beyond Montana. Medium quoted a very strange Facebook post known to be her last. She typed, "All depressing but I'm typing it like it's everything but... relying on feelings suck." After this very cryptic update, all accounts go silent and unvisited.

When all efforts to locate her on their own failed, Shacaiah's mother filed a missing persons report on August 20, 2018 with the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office. While Medium reports that not much was done by law enforcement, KULR8 and KHQ both say otherwise. They both stated that Detective Sergeant Frank Fritz did all he could after being assigned to the case. Nevertheless, Shacaiah's family took to the street with fliers in hand to pass out to any and everyone.

They received a tip that she had been seen hanging around a man that lived in Billings. He was known to be a violent man that was once accused of rape. Police refused to question him, so Shacaiah's family took matters into their own hands. They tracked the man down and talked to him themselves. Of course, he denied knowing anything about her disappearance. It came to light that this tip had originated from the man's ex-girlfriend. Whether this is a case of a jealous ex, or something more, we'll never know.

A friend of Tamera's came to her to say that she had seen Shacaiah downtown, talking to some men that were somehow known to be involved in human trafficking. Despite their efforts, her family has been unable to track these men down to talk to them. Tamera's friend has since passed away, taking any additional information she may have had to give with her to the grave.

The next lead didn't come in for quite some time. This one actually came from the police department, but they made no efforts in following up on it. According to KHQ, they found that someone had purchased a bus ticket from Billings to Colorado in Shacaiah's name. Her family pressed for further investigation into this lead, demanding to see the surveillance footage from the bus terminal. They wanted to find out if this person was Shacaiah and if she had made her way to Colorado. The department made the excuse that the lead was too weak to follow up on. They also cited the amount of paperwork that would be required, saying that they just couldn't do it. However, KHQ reports that no evidence was ever found to suggest that anyone even used the bus ticket.

The family is quite suspicious of Shacaiah's ex-boyfriend, Eric. The pair had a tumultuous relationship that was said to have been punctuated by abuse. There are no formal reports to confirm the abuse, but many victims don't report what happens behind closed doors. Eric lived in New Mexico and her family thought that maybe she had bought a ticket to Colorado in an attempt to make her way down to him. An ex of her's, presumably Eric, said that he video chatted with her in September 2018, but hadn't heard from her since. Her family has received tips about her being in Phoenix, Arizona or in Great Falls. They have personally followed up on each one to no avail.

Medium lists four possible theories of what happened to her in their article. The first states that she simply ran off and has been living on the streets this entire time, too ashamed to come home. This is a theory that her family believes could be true. Another theory that her family believes holds water is that she's been held against her will in a sex trafficking ring. A much more grim prospect is that she overdosed on the streets somewhere. The final possibility is murder. Given the criminal element she had surrounded herself with, this is a strong possibility.

Shacaiah's family believes that she is still alive out there somewhere. They want nothing more than to bring her home, no matter what has happened since she was last there. Though I've been unable to find out what tribe she was enrolled in, she was Native American, standing 5'4" tall. When she was last seen she weighed 120 pounds. She has black hair, brown eyes, and she may go by her middle name, Blue. If anyone has any information whatsoever regarding her case, please call the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office at 406-256-2929. You can also check out the Facebook page set up by her family to reach out to them directly. The page is titled Bring Shacaiah Harding "Blue" Home.

This beautiful woman deserves to be brought home and her family deserves the closure of knowing what really happened to her. Every day for nearly five years they have searched, followed leads, and hoped. They hoped that she would come back, but when it became apparent that she wasn't, they just started hoping that she was alive and well. Until some kind of answers are found they will continue to pound the pavement and speak with the media, keeping the case alive. Tamera and her relatives aren't giving up on Shacaiah or the hope that she will one day be found.

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