Remains Found in 2008 Identified as Yakama Woman Missing Since 1987


Human remains found in November 2008 in a remote area of the Yakama Reservation have been identified as those of a Yakama woman missing since late summer 1987.

Yakima County coroner Jim Curtice said Wednesday the remains found on Nov. 26, 2008, west of White Swan have been confirmed by DNA analysis as Daisy Mae Heath, 29, who grew up in White Swan as Daisy Tallman and was living there when she disappeared. She was reported missing on Oct. 29, 1987.

Testing was completed by Othram Laboratories, a private DNA laboratory in Texas known for identifying people whose remains have been unidentified for decades. Funding for the DNA testing was provided by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, Curtice said in a news release.

“I am hopeful that this may help with the healing process for family and friends,” he said.

Though Heath’s cause and manner of death will remain undetermined until further information is available, Curtice said, the FBI has described her disappearance as a suspected homicide. The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate all serious crimes involving Native Americans on tribal lands.

Heath’s backpack, keys and a turquoise ring were also found in the area west of White Swan where her remains were discovered. The land is closed to non-tribal citizens unless they have permission to be there. Road access is monitored when a guard house with a gate is staffed.

In the 1980s and 1990s, at least 14 Native women were murdered in cases that remain unsolved, or died under mysterious circumstances on the 1.3-million-acre Yakama reservation spanning Yakima and Klickitat counties. Some were found within or near closed portions of the reservation and died of strangulation or hypothermia.

Heath was one of at least two Native women who disappeared in that time. Karen Johnley Wallahee, who was last seen in Harrah on Nov. 7, 1987, is still missing. She also was 29.

It wasn’t unusual for Heath to be gone for extended periods of time. She would spend weeks in remote country hunting, fishing and gathering traditional foods. She also traveled between White Swan on the Yakama Reservation and the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, where the family had more relatives and friends.

She was reported missing to Yakama Nation Tribal Police when relatives hadn’t seen or heard from her for about two months.

Heath was born on Jan. 10, 1958, and grew up as Daisy Mae Tallman, which was her mother’s married name, but changed her last name to her father’s name shortly before she went missing. She was the youngest of six sisters and raised by maternal grandparents Elias and Lillie Whitefoot, along with extended family, on a ranch in Medicine Valley near the foothills of the Cascades.

She was known for her prowess in basketball and softball and her dedication to family, especially her nieces and nephews, some of whom she helped raise.

Though she was athletic and able to survive on her own in the region’s rugged backcountry, Heath was struggling with two profound losses when she disappeared — the deaths in 1986 of her infant daughter and the beloved grandmother who raised her and her sisters.

Heath was living with her sister Patricia Whitefoot and in a “very vulnerable state” when she disappeared, Whitefoot said during a March 2021 gathering of Yakama and Warm Springs sisters and close relatives of Heath and her cousin, Agnes Whitefoot Lora. They remembered Heath and Lora, who was murdered in Wapato in April 1994.

Relatives shared stories as they spoke of their missing and murdered loved ones. They wanted to ensure that their loved ones are remembered as people, not just statistics or case numbers, and let others know they will always be missed.