'We want justice': Farmington rally centers on missing and murdered Indigenous people crisis
FARMINGTON — Relatives, friends and advocates called attention to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people on May 5 while wearing T-shirts that memorialized loved ones and holding signs along San Juan Boulevard.
As they stood, they shouted, "we want justice" and "Indigenous lives matter," throughout the rally, which was also intended to spotlight the jurisdictional hurdles many families face when reporting missing relatives to law enforcement.
That problem is what Becky Martinez alleged her family encountered when her brother, Calvin Willie Martinez, went missing in May 2019 in Albuquerque.
She said when family members went to the Albuquerque Police Department to file a missing person report, they were told to go to the police department in Farmington because it is near where her brother lived in the area of the Nageezi and Huerfano chapters.
But when they went to Farmington, they were told to go to back to Albuquerque, she said, then added that her mother finally got a report done in June 2019 at the Farmington police station.
"She tried to file earlier than that, but they kept postponing it and telling us to go to the Navajo Nation, to go to Albuquerque, to come back to Farmington," Becky Martinez said of law enforcement.
"It was just the runaround because we live on checkerboard land. … It's like we don't exist because we live on a border. It shouldn't be like that. We should be able to get help no matter what," she said.
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The missing person information page on the New Mexico Department of Public Safety website lists Calvin Willie Martinez as last seen on May 12, 2019 in Farmington. Anyone with information about him is asked to call the Farmington Police Department at 505-599-1054.
Becky Martinez said the experience caused her to seek support from families of missing and murdered Indigenous people because they have mutual understanding about loved ones disappearing.
"Seeing people through Facebook and connecting with them was the way I started advocating for my brother," she said.
The group also revealed a new digital billboard that shares information about Melanie Marie James, who went missing on April 20, 2014 in Farmington, on the electronic display near San Juan Boulevard and Scott Avenue.
The new message joins one that has been on display for Zachariah Juwaun Shorty, who was last seen alive on July 21, 2020 in Farmington. The Kirtland resident's body was found four days later near the Nenahnezad Chapter house. His murder remains unsolved.
While May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, it is also the date Shorty was born in 1997.
To remember him on what would have been his 25th birthday and to raise awareness about the MMIW and MMIP crisis, his family and friends held a candlelight vigil at his grave at the Kirtland-Fruitland Cemetery in Kirtland.
"Zach was a victim of violence. He had died from gunshot wounds. To this day, there have been no arrests made on Zach's behalf," his mother, Vangie Randall-Shorty, said.
In January, the FBI increased its reward to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for Shorty's death.
Anyone with information is asked to call 505-889-1300 or visit tips.fbi.gov.
"He was a fun, loving and caring person," Randall-Shorty said. "Zach was one of those who lit up the room. He always had a story to share."
Kimberly Carlston, Shorty's cousin, wiped tears from her cheeks as she talked about him producing music, being kindhearted and loving his young daughter and family.
"He was very humorous. There was never one visit that you didn't go without laughing with him," Carlston said. "He had a bucket list. He was only halfway through it when his life was robbed."
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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