The Life and Death of Misty Upham
June 30, 2015 7:13 AM   Subscribe

“My name is Misty Upham, and someday you will know that name as the best living Native American actress.” This story is about her demise. How she went missing for 11 days. How she was found by folks enlisted by her family, and not by the police. How she was mocked when she most needed help. How she survived rapes. How she inspired kids. And how as an indigenous woman, she was not alone in facing injustice.
posted by goatdog (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by wakannai at 7:24 AM on June 30, 2015


And how as an indigenous woman, she was not alone in facing injustice.

The BBC recently ran a horrifying short documentary about the Red River murders in Winnipeg that really drives this point home.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:33 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Awful, awful, awful. While the police department took to Facebook to post pictures of K-9 puppies and ask for tips about ongoing investigations, they did not use their social media network to distribute photos of Misty during her disappearance.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 7:41 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by pemberkins at 7:41 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by Splunge at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by BibiRose at 7:58 AM on June 30, 2015


Jesus that's depressing.

That police chief is a police of work. Towards the end of the article where he's saying they didn't consider her missing or in danger bc she could drive a car "like a normal" person, while the author goes on to list the number of times that police dept had been called to deal with and had on record her out of control behavior and that she was involuntary committed a number of times bc she couldn't take care of a herself.
posted by sio42 at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by koucha at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2015


If you haven't seen Frozen River, do so! She's amazing in it.
posted by BibiRose at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is really horrifying:
Later on, the family would accuse the Auburn police department of brutality and mockery. “They denied it,” Charles said. “We witnessed it.”

The Auburn police countered with a press release that claimed they had responded to each of her family’s calls “professionally and with compassion”.

The responding officers wrote reports about that August night for administrative review, and one contained an admission that none of the other officers reported to have seen or heard:

Based upon the totality of the circumstances it appeared to me Upham’s severe level of intoxication had caused her to fabricate her profession as a Hollywood actress with a Hollywood agent. I sarcastically questioned Upham about her profession and asked if she had ever met Hollywood actor Robin Williams … At one point I interrupted her threats by making an abrupt and spontaneous babble noise in an attempt to distract her from her rants and get her to quit yelling.
I love that the police department then defends themselves against accusations of brutality with, "welllllll.... they're required to file reports if they do that, and there's no reports, so... *shrug*". I mean, it already looks like the department has some significant problems with honesty in reporting, but let's go ahead and compound that with more bullshit.
posted by palomar at 8:07 AM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


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posted by suelac at 8:26 AM on June 30, 2015


A client of mine is related to her. The disappearance and deathhit my client and her family really hard. Misty was a really an inspiration. People were so proud of her. Its disgusting how the police treated her case.

And yeah, she is heartbreaking in Frozen River. Great movie.
posted by kittensofthenight at 8:39 AM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by scruss at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2015


[Commander] Hirman has repeatedly told members of the media that Misty was not mentally ill. “She could also get into her car and drive and go to LA and act as a perfectly functioning adult human being,” he said.

What a piece of shit. It's obvious through the whole article that he simply does not care if anybody knows what a horrible job they did. That's how little value she had.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:09 AM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


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posted by of strange foe at 9:26 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 AM on June 30, 2015


Hirman replied that calling out search dogs is “not practical” since their K-9s search “for bad guys, not missing persons.”

A lame excuse like this wouldn't fly in an elementary school classroom at homework time, let alone actual grownups purporting to be police.

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posted by dr_dank at 9:53 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hirman replied that calling out search dogs is “not practical” since their K-9s search “for bad guys, not missing persons.”

A lame excuse like this wouldn't fly in an elementary school classroom at homework time, let alone actual grownups purporting to be police.


I totally believe that there are police departments who spend a lot of money keeping and training dogs for the sole purpose of finding drugs, and not finding people.

(Dogs and their handlers have to be trained separately for each of those functions, it takes a lot of time and money.)

Which is not to say the police couldn't have gotten dogs to help find Misty: SAR dogs are trained for that sort of thing. But I have no problem believing they didn't have any SAR dogs and couldn't be bothered to get them.
posted by suelac at 10:22 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2015


How she went missing for 11 days. How she was found by folks enlisted by her family, and not by the police.

I would like to draw attention to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There are only FOUR countries in the world who voted against it (Australia, New Zealand, Canada & USA).

I looked up all sorts of countries that are marred by basic human rights violations and noted that even they signed this.


Dear Foolish Four,

What kind of culture are you promoting within your administrations, when you cannot follow the lead of the rest of the world to give acknowledgement of the rights of the people who were there "first"? I'll tell you what kind. The kind of administrations that don't give a shit about someone when they find out they are "Indian".

Dear Aboriginal, Maori, and Native Populations of North America:

It might be 2015, but you are still not considered to be "real" within your own land. This is an embarrassment to every Australian, Kiwi, Canadian and American.

My condolences to Ms. Upham's family and friends. I hope to never understand the level of pain and frustration has brought you. I hope her loss yields some benefit to your plight in being recognized.

Anyone can go on and on about how there "may" have been procedural mistakes, or "one bad apple within the department", or "these things happen sometimes". I can't argue against that. But what I can say is that these things seem to happen more often than not when dealing with those who need help the most.

I hope her death brings acknowledgement of the injustices that continue to exist.

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posted by hal_c_on at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2015


There are only FOUR countries in the world who voted against it (Australia, New Zealand, Canada & USA)

at risk of belaboring the obvious: those are the only nations I can think of off the top of my head where, in modern times, invaders completely replaced the indigenous population.

also worth noting that they were all originally English colonies.
posted by lodurr at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


(just occurred to me that most carribean nations could technically fit that description, but I think that would be one of those 'exception-rule' things.)
posted by lodurr at 11:41 AM on June 30, 2015


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posted by elsietheeel at 5:29 PM on June 30, 2015


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posted by jessian at 5:42 PM on June 30, 2015


What an intensely sad story. I never knew her name but looking at her filmography I realize that I have seen her in films, and she was really good. I'm so sorry that she was never able to get the help she needed, and was instead treated poorly even after her death.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:43 PM on June 30, 2015


She was on a heck of a lot of SSRIs for someone with Bipolar. SSRIs can trigger manic episodes in people with Bipolar, making it really hard to treat Bipolar anxiety. Sounds like the quality of the healthcare she received was really poor. What did the commitments even accomplish?
posted by Biblio at 7:56 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that declaration... Many of us (but not nearly enough) in Canada are sickened by that refusal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:56 PM on June 30, 2015


What did the commitments even accomplish?

I'm not one to buy into the 'mental health professions are evil' thread, but being married to an LMSW and having recently spent 36 hours locked-in to a psych ward (because they refused to let my mother-in-law leave, even though she'd never shown them any indication she was at risk for self-harm, so my wife and I stayed with her to keep her from freaking out), I'm really skeptical that committments serve any real purpose in many if not most cases. The best case is you prevent someone from self-harming; but there's also a good likelihood that you've genuinely traumatized them in the process.
posted by lodurr at 5:27 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


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