"Never Forgotten" by Kathleen Piccione (Chippewa)
Over the holidays I received a package in the mail which contained a framed print of a Native American child. When I looked closely I saw that the print was signed by the artist and included the inscription; “Never Forgotten, In Memory of Ashlynne”. While the artwork itself is remarkable, depicting a young Native child holding an eagle feather, it was the inscription that caught my attention. I looked on the reverse of the print and found a note from the artist, Kathleen Piccione, that explained how she had been working on the painting when she heard the terrible news about the abduction of 11 year old Ashlynne Mike on the Navajo Nation in May, 2016. She realized that this work of art was destined to represent Ashlynne and her memory.
“When I began this painting in April of 2016, I wasn’t’ sure why I was prompted to paint the sad faced Caddo child that was photographed by a friend of mine a year earlier. Then one morning in May as I as watching the morning news they announced the abduction and murder of Ashlynne Mike. I began sobbing as I saw her picture and heard the horrific story of her death. I couldn’t shake the sick feeling that came over me. Her face would not leave my mind. I walked into my studio and looked at the painting I had been working on for the past month. Her face was sweet and young like Ashlynne’s yet it was deeply sad. I knew at that moment I had somehow painted this for Ashlynne, not knowing the tragedy that was about to unfold. I painted an eagle feather in the young girl’s hand to represent Ashlynne and called the painting “Never Forgotten” dedicating it to her forever.”
Sadly, Ashlynne’s story is all too familiar to those of us who have worked in the field of missing children. To quote the joint letter written by surviving family members who participated in the 2017 Family Roundtable; “We know the pain and agony of the search. Some of us had all of the media help we could get, while others couldn’t get anyone in the media to cover their story and tackle the challenges of their missing case. We have experienced the political challenges and jurisdictional challenges. While we know that the criminals don’t care which city, which county or which state that they happen to be in, it matters in terms of the investigation. When it comes to missing children, we earnestly wish that we could all forget about jurisdictional boundaries and just find our kids.”
Kathleen Piccione (Chippewa), in this beautiful work, has eloquently captured a powerful message, and one that is so important to all of us; never forget. We can never forget Ashlynne or the other children across our country who are taken from their families, whose lives are changed or even cut short by those who would prey upon them.
Each of us in our own way is working to keep the memory of Ashlynne alive and to bring about improvements in how we serve our nation’s most vulnerable. From the work of state, local, federal and tribal officials across the country to implement comprehensive child recovery strategies to the pending legislation in congress to implement the AMBER in Indian Country Act of 2017, we are all doing our part to make sure our missing children are never forgotten.
Program Administrator, AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program
National Criminal Justice Training Center at Fox Valley Technical College