FBI releases list of missing Native Americans in New Mexico and Navajo Nation

The FBI has released a list of more than 170 Native Americans confirmed missing across New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

The list will be updated regularly as several federal agencies attempt to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“Every missing person is important. The issue of missing Native Americans has been in the news for a long time and a lot of people wonder if anyone is paying attention to it,” said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda of the FBI’s division. from Albuquerque. in a press release. “I am here to assure you that the FBI has been attentive and, together with our partners, we are taking an important step towards justice for these victims, their families and their communities.”

Officials say publishing the faces and names of those missing and updating the list regularly will increase the transparency and accountability of these efforts.

“This is just one important step, and this multi-agency effort is critical to bringing justice and victim services to communities that have historically been underserved,” said the New Brunswick Attorney General. Mexico, Hector Balderas, in a statement.

People attend a rally to raise awareness for missing and murdered Native parents at the New Mexico State Capitol on February 4, 2022 in Santa Fe, NM

Sam Wasson/Sipa USA via AP, FILE

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety is the first agency in the nation to modify its National Crime Information Center missing person form to allow agencies to identify Indigenous peoples and their respective tribes, pueblos, or nations. in their reports, according to Jason R. Bowie. , secretary of the department.

Criticisms of law enforcement agencies from activists often cite the lack of reporting and identification in the lack of data on missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“We intend to find answers and justice for these women and families in our community,” Bowie said. “For generations, a disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and loved ones have gone unreported. We are committed to confronting and preventing further tragedies in our state; everyone deserves to feel safe in his neighborhood.”

What is the extent of this problem

Approximately 1,500 American Indians and Alaska Natives have been reported missing to the NCIC across the United States, and approximately 2,700 cases of negligent murder and homicide have been reported to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program ) from the FBI.

However, advocates say these figures do not reflect the full extent of the problem, as law enforcement agencies do a poor job of maintaining complete and accurate records of data on these cases.

FBI officials say it took almost six months to combine and verify databases of missing Native people in New Mexico to create this list.

“Many missing Native person files were incomplete or outdated because the file was not updated once additional details became available or once the person was located,” the FBI said in a statement. A press release.

Activists told ABC News that records of missing Indigenous people are often incomplete or outdated.

A study by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) found that many US law enforcement systems do not include a racial category for American Indians, Native Americans, or Alaska Natives, or that these systems classify these people inaccurately.

Members of several Indigenous nations and community activists protest and call attention to the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women, near Yuma, Arizona, May 6, 2022.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, FILE

However, victimization rates for many violent crimes against members of Indigenous and Indigenous communities remain disproportionately high.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), murder, rape, and violent crime rates among Native Americans and Alaska Natives are all higher than national averages.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the murder rate is 10 times higher than the national average for women living on reservations and the third leading cause of death among Native American women.

Other Federal Government Efforts

In April 2021, Home Secretary Deb Haaland formed the Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) at the BIA to provide more resources to investigate thousands of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

MMU will work with tribal investigators, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI, to support law enforcement throughout Indian Country and help uncover new information in testimonies, physical evidence and suspects, Haaland said.

Haaland also implements the Not Invisible Act, which combines the efforts of at least 27 federal and nonfederal members to focus on reducing violent crimes against American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs also has a running list of open cases involving Indigenous peoples across the country who have been reported missing or murdered in an effort to raise awareness.

Nohemi M. Moore