Indigenous leaders are raising concern of child welfare in the sudden disappearance and safe location of Dawn Walker and her son Vincent Jansen. The two were found safely in the state of Oregon, accused of entering the United States illegally.

Walker is the current Chief of Staff to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and a member of the Okanese First Nation.

“The leadership of Okanese First Nation has become aware of significant child welfare concerns regarding our young band member Vincent Jansen. We are responsible for all of our citizens, regardless of their residency, and care and custody status,” said Chief Richard Stonechild of Okanese First Nation. “With the information we have received we believe this is the case, and we will assert our self-determination and jurisdiction to ensure all measures are taken.”

A search effort began, after the two were last seen in Saskatoon on July 22. RCMP used a dive team to comb the South Saskatchewan River, while a plane aided in the aerial search.

“As indigenous women, as Indigenous children, as Indigenous people, at the end of the day, regardless of what it looks like on the outside, we are still extremely vulnerable, to go missing and to be harmed,” explained women’s advocate Erica Beaudin.

Police said Walker is to be returned to Saskatoon, while arrangements are being made for Vincent to be placed in the care of a legal guardian.

“We know why First Nations women go missing and recognize that there are many complex issues that surround their disappearances. This is clearly the case with Dawn and her son Vinnie, and we will be closely following the legal process with more details on this case eventually being made public,” FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said. “It is a shame that our women feel helpless within the current justice system. Every day, our women feel they are alone and do not know what to do in their desperate situations. We are the protectors of our children and it’s our duty to ensure their safety.”

None of the allegations or concerns raised by Indigenous leaders have been tested in court.