At a public vigil Sunday, dozens of friends, family and community members filled the Ignacio Community Library plaza to honor Gloria Casias, a domestic violence advocate who died on March 10.
“Gloria was loved by so many people on and off the reservation,” said Diane Millich, Casias’ friend, spiritual sister and fellow advocate. “Her mission was to stop domestic violence.”
Her death illuminates the complexities of escaping abuse. Casias, 63, was shot by her boyfriend on March 10 in a murder-suicide south of Oxford. Casias worked for Southern Ute Health Services and she was the co-founder of teen violence prevention program, See It. Stop It. She also served on the board of directors for Our Sisters Keeper, an organization that supports Native American women who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence.
The vigil was meant to support others like Casias who may be suffering. The evening began with a song that was followed by two blessings, a traditional blessing and one for domestic abuse victims, led by Andrew Frost. Family, friends and others were smudged as a way to bring healing to the community.
Candles were lit to represent the spark of light during a time of darkness, an opportunity to discuss abuse that is often shrouded in silence.
After the blessings, friends and family spoke about Casias. Many were women who were also victims of domestic abuse. Her son said his mom always taught him that “wives are the heartbeat of the family” and that any man who would hit a woman is not a man at all.
Other speakers pleaded with victims to walk away and shared their distrust for men that had to be overcome. Frost discussed how domestic violence does not discriminate and can happen to a woman or man, of any background and at any age.
Millich said Casias was a loving person with a soft voice who was always smiling and she deeply loved her children and grandchildren.
There will be a celebration of life held for Gloria Casias that has yet to be announced. People can donate to her GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses.