Area events on May 5 spotlight missing and murdered Indigenous women, people

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Several events in the region on May 5 will mark National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

The date was designated in a 2017 resolution by U.S. Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Jon Tester, D-Montana, in response to the murder of Hanna Harris, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who disappeared in 2013 from Lame Deer, Montana, and to highlight other abductions and killings of Native American women in the United States.

Last year, President Joe Biden declared May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.

According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, there were 5,295 Indigenous women and 4,276 Indigenous men reported missing in 2020 across the United States.

A participant in a walk and rally raising awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous people holds a sign on behalf of a missing woman on Nov. 13, 2021 in Berg Park in Farmington.

In Farmington, a call to attention of missing Indigenous people will be led by family members, advocates, and activists from the Party for Socialism and Liberation will gather at 4 p.m. at Berg Park.

The rally will honor the lives of those lost to the crisis and to stand with the families of Ashley Collins, Melanie James, Melissa Montoya and Ranelle Rose Bennett as they seek answers for their loved ones, according to a news release from the Law Offices of Darlene Gomez.

Gomez, a lawyer in Albuquerque, works on causes that promote missing and murdered Indigenous women and serves on the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Memorial Honor Walk on May 5, 2021 moves along U.S. Highway 64 in Shiprock.

The news release also highlights the case of Zachariah Juwaun Shorty, a 23-year-old Kirtland resident whose body was found on July 25, 2020 on a dirt path in a field west of the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

The FBI has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Shorty's death. Anyone with information is asked to call 505-889-1300 or visit tips.fbi.gov.

There will be a candlelight vigil to remember Shorty at 6 p.m. at the Kirtland-Fruitland Cemetery in Kirtland. The release states that a headstone will be placed at Shorty's grave before the vigil.

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The "Navajo Nation Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Relatives Tribunal" will take place on May 5 and May 6 in Window Rock, Arizona.

It will feature testimony and discussion with survivors, families, tribal leaders, experts and advocates and there will be screenings of the films, "Somebody's Daughter" and "Say Her Name."

The event will go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock.

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The New Mexico Indian Affairs Department posted on its Facebook page that the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force will release the formal response plan to address the crisis in the state.

The task force, along with the Indian Affairs Department and community partners will release the document during an event from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

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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