Marselina Whiteman, 19, sleeps on her couch after an exhausting day of balancing the needs of her twins, siblings and boyfriend. Since her mom's murder, she's emerged as the matriarch of the family and tried her best to be there even more for her siblings, all the while raising her twins.

What's Left Behind

Photographed for the University of Montana's Native News Honors Project 2019.

Lindsay Whiteman was murdered in October of 2018 on the Blackfeet Reservation, part of a crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women across the country that only recently has been gaining awareness. Lindsay left behind six kids. While the children have always been apart, raised by extended family, the murder of their mother distanced them further without a matriarch to tie the family together. This project examines what life is left behind in the shadow of death for these six children.

Marselina became a mother just as her own died. She says her babies are one thing that's helped her through the loss of her own mother. "I kept reminding myself that I have kids. I have to keep pushing and pushing. I can't just stop."

For Marselina, riding her horse provides one of the few escapes from her grief and the burden of taking care of her younger siblings. "The only thing you get to focus on is not falling off," she said.

Marselina and her brother, Fozzy, laugh as she struggles to cut a frozen chocolate cake, after a Shepard’s pie dinner and a long day of riding on her boyfriend's family ranch.

Fozzy rides horses with Marselina on her boyfriend's family ranch on the Blackfeet reservation. Fozzy, who grew up mostly with his mother's aunt, is quite close to his sister.

Fozzy and his horse, with whom he's also found solace in riding.

Fozzy plugs his ears while shooting targets at sunset.

A tire swing on a Cottonwood tree on the ranch.

Tyren "Chaca" Whiteman plays with his scooter at the skatepark in Browning. Donelle Deroche, his aunt, said Chaca is the only one of his siblings that didn't know his mother well and struggles with feels disconnected from her. “He never called her mom,” said Donelle. “He called her Lindsay.”

Chaca plays video games during dinner at his aunt Donnell's house. Like many nine-year-olds, he spends much of his time playing video games. His grades plummeted and behavior worsened after his mother's death.

Chaca dances after catching a football in an imaginary touchdown area at his aunt Donelle's, backyard in Browning. Everyone in the family says that Tyren is the "spitting image" of his mom. "Everything you see about him is Lindsay," Stan Whiteman, Lindsay's uncle said.

Chaca hugs his aunt Donelle after being recognized for his 3.9 GPA at Napi Elementary School in Browning. His grades are steadily improving, said Donnelle, but his behavior can still be a challenge at times.

Chaca plays basketball at dusk on the Blackfeet reservation. It's one of his favorite activities besides playing video games.

Two-year-old Hazley Crossguns, 5-year-old Shakina Crossguns and 7-year-old Micheal Jr. Crossguns flip through the pages of an old magazine in their grandmother’s backyard. They now live with their father, who was Lindsay's partner at the time of her murder and is protective of them from the rest of the family after winning a custody battle against Marselina.

Shakina and MJ bicker in their father's backyard. Since his mother's death, MJ has had trouble in school and acted out a lot. The Crossguns children live on Meadowlark Drive, just four houses down from where their mother was killed.

Marselina and her boyfriend, Taylen Lytle, ride with Fozzy on Lytle's 30,000 acre family ranch on the Blackfeet reservation, four miles south of the Canadian border.

Using Format