Police in Billings, Montana, confirmed Tuesday that on May 16 officers were dispatched to a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the state’s largest city for a report that a 23-year-old woman had been assaulted.
Silver Little Eagle, the victim and a councilwoman for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was transported by ambulance to a medical facility for treatment of injuries. No arrests were made, and no charges had been filed as of Tuesday morning.
Billings police did not name Little Eagle directly in the statement but confirmed in an email to the Great Falls Tribune that Little Eagle was the victim of the alleged assault.
Officers learned Little Eagle was missing personal property and her vehicle, which was later located by officers, according to a news release. A 31-year-old man was also reported to have been assaulted at the same time and location as Little Eagle.
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Two women, ages 25 and 27, have been identified as persons of interest and “are actively being sought by investigators for questioning,” according to the release. Officers believe there is an association between the 31-year-old man and the 27-year-old woman of interest.
The department also wrote, “there is no indication that the crime was racially motivated or connected to human trafficking.”
News of the incident spread statewide, prompting criticism and outrage. Some condemned the lack of media coverage, others called for justice, and some turned to social media to allege the councilwoman was lying about the severity of her injuries.
Billings Police Department said it “will not provide information on severity of injury.” Little Eagle and other members of the Northern Cheyenne tribal council were not immediately available for comment.
Little Eagle’s family released a statement on May 20 saying “she suffered severe physical injuries” and was “left for dead.” A family friend also created a GoFundMe, which had accrued more than $25,000 as of Tuesday, to assist with medical costs.
Since the incident, her family wrote Little Eagle experienced “further threats of violence, cyberbullying, defamation of character and harassment by the assailants and people in her own community.”
Silver’s father, Goldstein Little Eagle, said allegations that Silver did not suffer life-threatening injuries are false.
“She was badly beaten, and she was in the hospital. She’s resting and in recovery and healing now,” he said. “Every woman that has experienced violence should be taken very seriously. It’s pretty hurtful right now with all the slander and gossip going on.”
Little Eagle, who turned 24 years old on Monday, ran for council in 2020 as a write-in candidate. The election was historic, as the Northern Cheyenne Nation elected all women candidates to its tribal president, vice president and five open council positions.
Indigenous people experience violence at disproportionately high rates. A 2016 National Institute of Justice report found that more than four in five Indigenous people had experienced violence in their lifetimes.
Nora Mabie covers Indigenous communities for the Great Falls Tribune. She can be reached at [email protected].