New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force Releases Final Report and Recommendations
The New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR) task force released its final report and recommendations to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham this month. The MMIWR task force was convened by the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department in 2019 following the passage of House Bill 278, which called on the state to research the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and relatives.
Nationally, Native women and girls are nearly twice as likely to experience violence as their nonnative counterparts. In the Southwest, 46% of Native women have reported they have been the victim of sexual assault or violence in their lifetimes. The most disturbing finding is that murder is the third leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Over the past year, the MMIWR task force worked in collaboration with tribal governments, tribal law enforcement, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The task force has worked to determine the scope of problems, identify barriers, and create partnerships to help improve processes for reporting and investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. Read more about the MMIWR task force.
Tewa Women United encourages you to read this comprehensive report, which intersects with our intentions to grow beloved communities and promote a culture of peace. How can we as a community move forward to support the recommendations included in this report? We look forward to being in conversation with you about this, and to collective actions that express community love, support, and care.
As we write this introduction, our tribal communities have been directly impacted by Covid-19 and many have lost family members. The Navajo Nation has been particularly affected, as have several of our state’s Pueblos. During this pandemic, tribal rights to designated emergency funding were withheld until recently, and according to crisis response organizations addressing violence, sexual assault and domestic violence cases have risen alarmingly.
Recent deaths of Black Americans from state-enacted violence are only a continuation of the untimely deaths of Black, Transgender, and Indigenous Peoples whose lives are routinely cut short by police brutality and systemic racism. Like the violence directed at our Native/Indigenous women, girls and relatives, Black lives lack value by the White, cis-hetero-patriarchal, capitalist American system. It must be stated that law enforcement is a Western construct that did not previously exist in our Indigenous Communities. The first organized policing systems in America began in the South with slave patrols whose sole purpose was to uphold the power and profit of the slaveholders. These self-elected patrols were armed and had broad powers to arrest, search and detain slaves, guard against rebellions and search for runaway slaves.
There is a plethora of statistical information available that shows Black and Indigenous people are twice more likely to be killed by police violence than their White counterparts and experience various types of physical violence in encounters with police. The systemic racism embedded in colonial society does not center or protect the lives of Black, Brown and Indigenous people; rather it provides a structural institution for White supremacists or those with internalized oppression, posing as police officers, to enact violence. Racial misclassification, in and near, Native and Alaska Native communities results in underreporting and continued tensions between law enforcement and Indigenous people.
Spanish conquistadors once enacted unspeakable violence against Pueblo Peoples in the name of their religion and desire for gold and material wealth. The colonial values that enable patriarchal male and state violence against Native women, girls, relatives and LGBTQ2S+ are the same that attempt to separate Peoples from the land and perpetuate the policies and structures of environmental racism that exist today. Our ancestors stood up for Native women in our communities and did not tolerate any violence against those most vulnerable. We are still fighting for justice today….
From Task Force Report, page 57, “Community Perspective”