New Mexico bills assign state resources to address missing Indigenous people cases

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two bills on Feb. 24 that will utilize state resources to address the crisis of missing Indigenous women and relatives.

Lujan Grisham's approval of Senate Bill 12 creates one or more positions in the New Mexico Attorney General's Office to assist with investigating and prosecution of missing persons cases involving Indigenous persons.

The office also has the task of developing a network to support efforts by tribes and pueblos to identify, report and find missing tribal members.

Her signing of Senate Bill 13 creates the "missing in New Mexico event," an annual event to connect New Mexico families of missing persons with federal, state, local and tribal agencies and resources.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs two bills to provide state resources to address the issue of missing Indigenous people on Feb. 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

"New Mexico is taking action to bring together critical resources for families of our missing and murdered Indigenous neighbors, helping to deliver justice for victims, bring their loved ones closure and prevent these tragedies from happening to families," Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Indian Affairs Department Secretary Lynn Trujillo explained that the bills complement each other for providing support to families, supplying resources to communities, and addressing challenges of working with multiple jurisdictions.

State Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, was among the officials, advocates and family members who attended the signing at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, left, and state Sen. Shannon Pinto, left center, attend the Feb. 24 signing in Albuquerque of two state Senate bills to help address the issue of missing Indigenous people.

Pinto sponsored Senate Bill 12, which was based on recommendations in a report by the state's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force.

"It was a great effort. I'm very glad that we actually got something passed and to the governor, to have her sign," Pinto said in a telephone interview on Feb. 24.

She added that during the legislative session, Lujan Grisham issued an executive message to state senators, urging the bill be considered before the 30-day session ended.

"We are hoping for a very positive and very impactful outcome from this legislation," Pinto said. "Creating that office and creating those positions, puts us up there on the forefront as far as addressing this issue in the nation."

The governor's approval was commended by Navajo Nation first lady Phefelia Nez, who is a member of the state task force.

Nez said the bills were necessary because Native American women comprise the highest rate of homicide among racial and ethnic groups in New Mexico and they are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes.

"It is important to build upon strong networks to support the efforts to identify, report and find missing Indigenous persons and increase support for families and survivors," Nez said.

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

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