FBI transmits its request for information on violent crimes in Diné Bizaad

By: - April 18, 2022 4:30 am

The FBI is releasing radio ads translated in the Navajo language seeking information related to violent crimes. Farmington-based radio station, KNDN, played the first spot asking listeners about WIlson Joe Chiquito. In 2014, he was found dead in his home in Counselor, NM an hour southeast from the Four Corners border town.

Radio stations in New Mexico will soon hear more messages from the FBI about people who are missing or homicide cases involving Native Americans. 

Many of these messages will have a target audience: Diné Bizaad speakers. 

“Navajo speakers will now be able to hear as well as read our posters in their native language,” said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda, who is based in the Albuquerque FBI Division. “We hope this leads to cases being solved and justice for victims and families.”

The audio clips will also appear on the online posts for translated fliers.

This is the latest attempt at community outreach by the FBI to solve violent crimes on tribal lands. The feds started by translating posters in 2020 and ramped up the effort in 2021 by releasing nearly two dozen active case posters in Diné.

The FBI released its first radio commercial that was translated by language specialists in the bureau into Navajo and aired for the first time in 2020 on KNDN, an AM radio station based in the bordertown of Farmington that has coverage across the Four Corners area. 

The announcement says there is a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the homicide of Wilson Joe Chiquito, who was killed in his home in 2014. The 75-year-old man was from the Counselor Chapter on the Navajo Nation, located off U.S. Highway 550 one hour south of Farmington.

FBI specialist translates info about MMIWR and hate crimes into Navajo

Melinda Nakai (Diné) is an outreach specialist with the federal agency and one of two employees the bureau has certified as a Diné Bizaad translator. She translates posters for the FBI and assists with the radio spots.

“Navajo was my first language,” she told Source New Mexico last year. “And I was bilingual already at a very early age. I spoke English as well.”

Nakai, who works out of the Salt Lake City field office, saw this role created in response to a request from the FBI’s Diversity Advisory Committee seeking more resources to assist with an increase in cases in tribal communities.

“A lot of cases came out of the Navajo Nation, and there was a need for translations and operational support,” Nakai said. It took a few years for the committee’s plan to be recognized and adopted by the FBI, she said.  “And that’s where I came in.”

Special Agent in Charge Sean Kaul said he hopes the translation work from Nakai can assist with the cases his office handles.

“This new tool will greatly enhance our ability to reach the citizens of Navajo Nation with hopes of solving more crimes in that portion of Arizona,” he said.

Expect the FBI to release more audio clips for Diné Bizaad speakers as they are approved and translated.

People can submit tips and report information to the FBI online or via email and over the phone, Kaul added, or by going to one of the local offices.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He 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.