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FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation leaders are backing a proposal to create a task force to examine the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in New Mexico.

The Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee voted 18-0 to support and advocate for New Mexico House Bill 278, which calls for the task force and its immediate implementation as an emergency.

House Bill 278, which awaits consideration by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, proposes the task force study and determine how to increase state resources for reporting and identifying missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The group would also collaborate with tribal law enforcement to identify barriers and improve processes for reporting and investigating cases.

Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty sponsored the Navajo Nation bill and presented it to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee on Feb. 28.

Crotty said it is important for the tribe to issue its support because it, along with other tribes, are part of the push to address missing and murdered Native American women and girls.

She added while there are efforts in Arizona and Utah to focus on the matter, House Bill 278 explicitly names parties for the task force and appropriations for maintaining the group.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that he and others have expressed support for the task force while meeting with state officials in Santa Fe.

"We recognize that violence against Native American women is a growing problem that needs more attention and resources to make a positive difference," Nez said.

He added that this week he will provide testimony to members of Congress about public safety, and will convey and advocate for additional aid and resources to address the issue.

The bill in the Arizona House of Representatives calls for a comprehensive study to determine how the state can reduce and end violence against Indigenous women and girls.

In the Utah State Legislature, efforts are underway to designate May 5 as "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and LGBT+ Awareness Day."

The Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee issued support for the Arizona and Utah bills on Feb. 28.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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