FBI updates list of missing Native Americans in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – In an updated list, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released the names of 186 missing Indigenous people. It includes some who have been missing for decades.

The list, first published in July, took six months to put together, according to the FBI. Justin Hooper of the Bureau of Indian Affairs called the list “a big step forward” in finding missing persons.

The latest list update added 19 new names. And 10 names have been removed, according to the FBI.

Albuquerque FBI office spokesman Frank Fisher says they don’t have details on the status of all 10 people removed from the list – local law enforcement agencies are simply updating the list if necessary. But, says Fisher, the 10 people removed from the list are likely a mix of people found safe and people reclassified as no longer missing, and people who have died.

The list isn’t just for record keeping, the FBI says. It is an investigative tool for local law enforcement. The FBI, after all, doesn’t routinely investigate missing persons, Fisher says.

“If someone’s relative is included in the names, the FBI actively checks numerous law enforcement databases and other sources nationwide to identify leads that will be promptly forwarded to the appropriate agency,” Fisher said in a press release. “If a missing Indigenous family member is not on this list, next of kin are urged to contact their local or tribal law enforcement agency and ask them to submit a missing person report.

Currently, the most missing person on the list is Walcie Downing, born in 1924. Downing was last seen in 1956 in Gallup, New Mexico. According to her federal missing persons file, she left behind five children, who say she would never voluntarily give them up. She would be 97 today.

Scott Lillyona, meanwhile, is one of the youngest on the list. Aged 13, they disappeared in June this year.

One case the FBI is involved in is the disappearance of Anthonette Cayedito, Fisher says. She disappeared in 1986.

“She was nine years old when she disappeared in Gallup, New Mexico, straight from her home,” says Fisher. “The FBI kept looking for this kid.”

The full list of missing persons is intended to help locate people like Cayedito. But some say they are still frustrated by the lack of information and publications regarding the missing in New Mexico.

Fochik Hashtali, spokesperson for the nonprofit organization Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA (MMIWUSA), told KRQE News 13 that adding more details to the list, such as where each person disappeared or the status of those no longer on the list, could go a long way in locating the missing in New Mexico. Hashtali feels the state has not done all it can to publicize the problem.

The FBI’s Fisher says there are plans to make the list more detailed. But it takes time, he says. So the idea is to get the list out to the public as soon as possible, and then expand it in more detail in the years to come.

“One of our biggest challenges is keeping these missing person cases in the public eye and that’s one of the main reasons we rolled out this list,” Fisher said. “We want to give this issue exposure, publicity, transparency.”

The full list can be found here, on the FBI’s website. They say they plan to update the list every month.

Nohemi M. Moore