Navajo leaders honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Day
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation signed a proclamation May 5 recognizing the day as “Navajo Nation Indigenous Peoples Awareness Day during an event about empowering women in Window Rock, Arizona.
The Navajo Nation Council, including Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, chair of the Sexual Assault Prevention subcommittee and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland were on hand with the council to recognize the day and uplifting the voices of families and survivors while remembering those who still remain missing.
"Today, we extend our appreciation to our partners and volunteers, who work hard to shine light on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives throughout Indian Country, including the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “Many families know the personal heartbreak and trauma of missing loved ones, and we think of them and pray for them today. We can set a new tone of hope and healing for families and communities through awareness and support.”
The Department of Justice said Native Americans face some of the highest rates of violence in the country, experiencing violent crime at higher rates than the national average. Native women and girls experience disproportionately high rates of sexual and gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence.
During the event, the president and first lady presented a new Navajo Nation Missing Persons poster to increase awareness of bringing loved ones home.
The Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety reported that approximately 59 individuals on the Navajo Nation have been missing since the 1970s, including 15 females and 44 males.
The poster will be periodically updated and distributed among local communities and posted within the seven Navajo Nation police districts throughout the Nation.
“Justice must be served for the families and victims of violence, and our missing Indigenous people must be found,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon. “The Navajo Nation is working with the Justice Department to implement the Not Invisible Act, sponsored by Secretary Deb Haaland during her time in Congress. This is a national crisis that needs our immediate attention and to bring healing to our communities.”
First Lady Phefelia Nez said that to meet the urgency of the problem, it is also crucial to focus on preventative efforts to restore, reunite and heal families.
“As leaders, we have to invest in and continue our community-based projects and programs that help Navajo families and children to help prevent and offset the impacts of social issues,” she said. “We must all contribute to creating a safer and healthier environment for our children and vulnerable populations. We also need to support comprehensive law enforcement, prevention, intervention, and support services to help address missing and murdered Indigenous people.”
Since May 2, the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, along with the Navajo Nation Police Department and Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral and Mental, provided situational awareness and self-defense workshops in all five Navajo Nation agencies to empower women. Workshops included presentations on building healthy relationships, learning self-defense techniques, and learning how to reach for help and resources.
"We have heard many stories and firsthand accounts of our people who have gone missing and murdered, and many families continue to suffer from the resulting trauma and heartache,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer. “We are hopeful that awareness and collaboration will lead to justice, closure, and healing for many of our people. Violence continues to impact our families and communities, and we must be there for each other as grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Today, let's remind ourselves to check on our families, neighbors, and all relatives. Together, we can protect each other and not lose another relative to violence."
Second Lady Dottie Lizer said the recognition of the long-overlooked issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people is finally being addressed with partnerships meant to enhance public awareness and address root causes.
"Through the federal government's recognition by laws and executive orders such as Operation Lady Justice and Savanna's Act & Not Invisible Act, [the] Navajo Nation will continue to partner with local, state and federal agencies to take action on the critical steps to heal and protect our Navajo citizens. Together, we can end the issue of missing and murdered Native Americans.”
More information on missing persons on the Navajo Nation is available by visiting the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety website at www.npd.navajo-nsn.gov. Anyone with possible information on any of the Navajo Nation missing persons’ whereabouts is encouraged to call the Navajo Police Department Tip Line at (928) 686-8563 or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.