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Families continue tireless search efforts for missing Native American teens Navaeh Kingbird, Jeremy Jourdain


By Jennifer Mayerle

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    BEMIDJI, Minnesota (WCCO) — Right now in Bemidji, two Native American teens are missing, and their families want to know what happened to them.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates there are around 4,200 cases of missing and murdered Native Americans in the U.S. that remain unsolved. Two of them are Navaeh Kingbird and Jeremy Jourdain.

Navaeh hasn’t been heard from in nearly two years. Jeremy disappeared six years ago.

WCCO recently spent time in Bemidji during one of the searches to learn more about the missing, and to meet the families still holding on to hope.

Before every search, there’s smudging.

“We sage ourselves in the morning before we go. I feel like it’s for protection,” Navaeh’s sister LaKaylee Kingbird said.

On this day, a group of family and supporters came together to look for Navaeh. She was 15 when she was last seen in late October of 2021 in south Bemidji.

“There’s so many possibilities of what could have happened to her. And as of right now I’m holding onto hope,” mom Teddi Wind said. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Wind says finding her daughter stays at the forefront of her mind.

“There’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t think about my daughter,” Wind said.

They search areas she’s known to go, wooded areas nearby and open fields. On this day, there’s another knowing mother by her side.

“My son Jeremy was 17 years old when he went missing Halloween night,” mom Theresa Jourdain said.

Jourdain has searched for Jeremy Jourdain for six long years, and understands what Wind is going through.

“It’s just always there, you know, the what ifs, who knows,” Jourdain said.

She says it doesn’t get easier. Still, she doesn’t give up.

“We have to just keep on going all the time with that nightmare in our head,” Jourdain said.

Someone who has gotten to know the families well: Lissa Yellow Bird Chase with Missing Murdered Exploited Indigenous People. She brought her cadaver dogs to help in this search.

“When you see these dogs work, when you see them find something, it’s like there’s no mistaking that it’s there,” Yellow Bird Chase said.

She feels connected to each family who’s waiting for answers.

“My niece went missing and was murdered, so I know what it feels like. I know the pain of not knowing and then the loss afterwards, so like I guess this is part of my healing process as well, is to help others,” Yellow Bird Chase said.

And that’s why she’s now taking proactive steps with her own family, with her community in North Dakota.

“I actually do scent kits on kids on my reservation,” Yellow Bird Chase said.

So if someone goes missing, they have a smell dogs can track. And she’s started collecting fingerprints and dental records for her family.

“So if there’s a recovery made if I go missing, they have those on file,” Yellow Bird Chase said.

And with good reason. According to a report made to the legislature, American Indian women and girls make up 1% of Minnesota’s population. But from 2010 to 2018, they made up 8% of murdered women and girls in the state.

“As long as you have people with less life chances, you know, living in poverty, you know, have less access to education and things like that, we are the petri dish for all these predators,” Yellow Bird Chase said.

So they join together to help each other, admitting there’s a lack of trust with law enforcement. Part of combing the grounds is to eliminate a theory that Navaeh Kingbird succumbed to the cold, and to give police reason to follow other leads.

“We also want to prove to them that if we don’t find her in this area, we just want them to look at other theories besides they thinking that the elements took her,” Wind said.

Detective Sergeant Dan Seaberg says they’ve received over 50 tips. None have led them to Navaeh.

“It’s possible that hypothermia set in, but with not locating her, anything at this time is on the table,” Seaberg said.

He’s also working Jeremy’s case. WCCO asked what could help bring the teenagers home.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know what the answer is to that. Somebody that knows something coming forward and saying something,” Seaberg said.

While they wait for someone to come forward, they do all they can to find resolution.

“We all want to bring her home, we miss her,” LaKaylee Kingbird said.

“Being at home and not doing anything, just sitting there waiting for somebody else to search for our missing loved one, I don’t feel like that’s gonna happen,” Wind said. ” I feel like as a mom I have to be out there to be her voice, to be out there looking for her regardless of what anybody else says.”

The next search for Navaeh Kingbird is scheduled for the last week in September. They are looking for volunteers. Here’s a link to sign up.

If you have any information about Navaeh or Jeremy’s disappearances, contact police. You can also submit an anonymous tip online to Crime Stoppers, or call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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