Bringing more attention to missing and murdered Indigenous relatives

Family members, legal experts and law enforcement talk about the ongoing crisis with Source NM Thursday morning on KUNM News 

By: - October 21, 2021 4:30 am

Anita King, the mother of Pepita Redhair, thanks the crowd for coming out in support of her missing daughter and others like her at the MMIW rally at Tiguex Park on Oct. 3. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

Full episode of “Let’s Talk New Mexico” on KUNM Radio Oct. 21, 2021

Pepita Redhair’s family is still looking. 

Redhair was reported missing at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Her family says the Albuquerque police investigation did not seem complete. Her boyfriend, the last person to see her, had a brief interview with investigators, according to her family members. They said the department told them police could not activate a warrant for his arrest due to pandemic restrictions. Officers mentioned visiting her home many times to respond to reports of domestic violence, the family says, but the violent reality of her life was evoked by police in a dismissive and disrespectful way. Redhair was hospitalized a week before she went missing with head contusions, her family says.

These are the thoughts the family is left with when wondering if everything possible is being done to find Redhair or investigate the circumstances that could have contributed to her disappearance. 

“One day she didn’t call,” Redhair’s sister Shelda Livingston said. “She always calls home and says, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do this today. I’m gonna go here. Shall we send photos of what we’re gonna do?’ And then we didn’t hear from her for two days. That’s not like her. So that’s how we got worried.”

That concern is commonplace for many Native American families who live with the reality that their family member may go missing or may be killed, and they might not ever know what happened. It’s possible no one will look very hard into the case. There might never be justice. And the person they love might never be seen again.

We’re hosting a live, hourlong radio show about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Relatives on KUNM News, which is broadcast around the state at a few points on your radio dial

Thursday, Oct. 21, 8 a.m. (MT)

Let’s Talk New Mexico

  • 89.9 FM Albuquerque
  • 89.9 FM Santa Fe
  • 91.9 FM Nageezi
  • 91.9 FM Española
  • 91.1 FM Cuba
  • 90.9 FM Taos
  • 91.9 FM Las Vegas
  • 90.5 FM Eagle Nest
  • 88.7 Socorro

Or tune in from anywhere in the country at kunm.org.

It’s still unclear exactly how many cases there are in New Mexico of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives. 

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez told the New Mexico MMIWR task force that he’s aware of more than 20 cases but acknowledged reporting issues between families and law enforcement create unreliable information. Cases go unreported. With poor info, cases are misclassified, limiting resources. 

People from Arizona and Utah are also wondering about what happened to their family members since tribal police hit heads with federal, state, tribal and city investigators, stirring up a jurisdictional and informational mess. Things get missed. Whole cases get ignored.

Even though public officials express concern, the families of people gone missing or found dead experience ineptitude by the criminal legal system and police, who have said that those bureaucratic issues impede their efforts. 

From poor collaboration and fractured allocation of resources, the system is broken. So it’s on families to keep talking about it, keep exerting pressure, and keep seeking answers and justice. 

Your hosts for this episode are Source New Mexico Reporter Shaun Griswold and Editor-In-Chief Marisa Demarco, a former KUNM reporter.

GUESTS: 

  • Redhair’s family as they work to navigate the law enforcement web of tribal, federal and state agencies that are interested in investigating the missing case. 
  • Darlene Gomez, an attorney and member of the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Relatives task force. She assists clients, including Redhair’s family, to access every resource available to find justice. 
  • Chastity Sandoval, the chair for the MMIWR data subcommittee and case manager in Nambé Pueblo. She facilitates help for people and their families, while also offering aftercare support for people who survive violent traumatic experiences. 
  • Angel Charley, the executive director for the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, who will join to speak more about how advocacy groups are leveraging federal dollars to bring awareness and support for families in need. 
  • Navajo Nation Police Department Chief Phillip Francisco, who will discuss the efforts and limitations of his agency when investigating these cases within the convoluted web of law enforcement jurisdictions. 

We want to hear from you

What can be done to prioritize cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people? What do you wish you were seeing that you aren’t when it comes to these cases? What strategies do families and advocates employ to search for loved ones? How can people help? 

MORE INFO:

RESOURCES: 

MENTAL WELLNESS HELP:

New Mexico Crisis and Access Line: 1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474)

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

New Mexico Peer-to-Peer Warmline: 1-855-4NM-7100 (466-7100)

Call 7 a.m.–11:30 p.m.  |  Text 6 p.m.–11 p.m. every day

Language services always available

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.

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