‘We cannot solely depend on the system’

Families of the missing and murdered rally in freezing Santa Fe temperatures

By: - February 4, 2022 6:24 pm

“We have sat at home, we’ve waited for that knock on the door. We watch the telephone to ring. We want those voices to say, ‘I’m home mom. I’m coming home.’ But they haven’t come home,” McKinley County Commissioner and former Navajo Nation Councilor Genevieve Jackson (left) said at a rally Friday, Feb. 4. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

American law turns a blind eye to missing and murdered Indigenous people, said Casey Camp-Horneik, a Native rights activist, environmentalist and actor.

“When we die, when we are killed, when we are missing, is there a database? No,” Camp-Horneik said Friday morning at a rally on the Santa Fe Plaza, where she gave an opening prayer.

Native people weren’t even considered human in the eyes of the law until 1879, Camp-Horneik said. That year, a judge for the first time in U.S. history ruled that “the Indian is a ‘person’” and has all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women remains an issue to this day because of the inexcusable complexity of law enforcement jurisdiction, systemic racism and historic lack of funding, said Angel Charley.

Charley asked everyone at the rally to keep those three things in mind while pressuring lawmakers to pass three separate but related bills meant to address MMIWR in the final stretch of the 2022 session.

Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives marched from the Santa Fe Plaza to the Roundhouse on Friday, Feb. 4. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

While the various parts of the criminal legal system figure out how to communicate with one another, families are still burdened with the financial cost of looking for their loved ones on their own, said Charley, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.

“For far too long, laws and policies have meant to disrupt our community,” Charley said. “Our communities need the resources to solve these issues on our own. We cannot solely depend on the system.”

When Charley’s communities are resourced well, they come up with the solutions that work best for them, she said.

The rally, held in freezing temperatures, included families of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, tribal leaders, advocates and lawmakers.

As Charley and others spoke, organizers gave out food, water, and gasoline cards for those who drove many miles on icy roads to reach the event.

Together, everyone then marched to the east entrance of the Roundhouse.

Rebecca Touchin, vice president of the Laguna Pueblo chapter of the New Mexico Federation of Democratic Women, said they support Senate Bill 12, Senate Bill 13 and Senate Bill 64.

“I believe it is crucial that we continue to bring light to the MMIWR and the families that are suffering,” Touchin said. “It amplifies the missing and starts the healing process for the families, which are both equally important.”

Friday’s gathering was needed because of the dehumanization of Indigenous people by the United States, said Nicole Martin, an organizer with Indigenous Women Rising. She said the rally showed that her community has strength in numbers.

“I can’t wait ‘til the day that we overthrow this system, rematriate the land, and restore matriarchal governance, to live our fullest, healthiest, happiest lives, for the future generations to come,” Martin said.

SB 12 would grant the Attorney General’s Office jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute cases involving missing Indigenous victims, create a “missing indigenous-persons specialist” position within the Attorney General’s Office, and create a grant-based online portal for electronically cataloguing cases of missing Indigenous persons.

It also would set aside $1 million to hire and train at least one missing Indigenous-persons specialist, and another $1 million to set up the online portal. 

The bill was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, Feb. 4, but no hearing had been held as of press time.

SB 13 would create a “missing in New Mexico event” to support all New Mexicans who have missing relatives and provide an opportunity for federal, state, local and tribal governments to come together in one location and help families with filing or updating missing persons reports, submitting DNA records or meeting with investigators.

The House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 4 voted 9-0 to pass the bill.

SB 64 would set aside $5 million each year to help domestic violence programs hire and retain advocates and other staff, develop alternate safe shelters that would reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, expand child-focused services, provide flexible direct support to survivors that meets their immediate needs, enhance counselling and case management services.

The bill was in the Senate Finance Committee as of Friday, Feb. 4, but did not have any hearings scheduled as of press time.

Lawmakers and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives rallied outside the east entrance to the Roundhouse after a march on Friday, Feb. 4. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

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.

Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.