Navajo Nation hosts conference to address solutions for number of murdered, missing indigenous women

State and federal leaders are holding the largest tribunal forum called ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives’ at the Navajo Nation this week.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 7:25 PM MST
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NAVAJO NATION (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s long been a problem that many in our state are trying to change — the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women that get little to no attention and often are never found. State and federal leaders are holding the largest tribunal forum called ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives’ at the Navajo Nation this week, and it’s gotten the attention of lawmakers in Washington.

The message is clear from these Native Americans; they simply want some help. They want the same resources, awareness, and support that other missing persons case or murder victim gets. They said this tribunal is a huge first step as far as taking action goes.

It’s a reality they know all too well and wish they didn’t. “So many of us have gone missing, and really nobody bats an eye at it,” said John Tososie, who was speaking at the event.

It’s one of the largest gatherings they’ve ever had of advocates and officials addressing the problem and trying to find solutions. “This definitely sends a message that we are at a place now where we’re okay to talk about it and getting the attention we deserve,” said Tososie.

The tribunal starts with families opening their hearts to share tough stories like Donovan Quintero, who lost his sister and niece to domestic violence during a custody case. “They were murdered June 28th, 2016, at the Navajo County superior courthouse just a few feet away from the court entrance,” Quintero said. “Grief and pain doesn’t know time.”

It’s stories like this that brought federal representation to the Navajo Nation. “It was important for us to show up and show that we care,” said Brencia Berry, the director of the Coalitions Democratic National Committee.

She said in Washington, there’s already been progress, pointing to the “Not Invisible Act” that was signed into law in 2020 to establish a committee that could make recommendations to the feds for hiring and retaining law enforcement officers and resources on tribal land. “I will go back, and I will tell the chairman directly of the conversations I had with family members of the heartbreak and seeing face to face the impact on families,” Berry said.

The hope for all in attendance is not only to get these cases heard but prevent the violence from happening in the first place. “Yes, the awareness there is now. It’s here. We’re seeing it. But now what? What’s the next step?” said Tososie.

It’s questions like that that congress members and federal officials are already talking about publicly. The U.S. Interior Secretary announced Thursday a commission that will craft new recommendations on how the feds can better tackle unsolved cases with Native Americans. Congressman Greg Stanton renewed his call Thursday to get more resources and law enforcement professionals to the reservations.