There are nearly 200 missing Native Americans from New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. The FBI is working to tackle unsolved cases

Gallup, New Mexico

Sadie Acevedo is going through an endless cycle of grief.

Her sister, Anthonette Cayedito, disappeared from the family home in Gallup, New Mexico one evening in 1986 and has not been seen since. Acevedo thinks Cayedito’s disappearance could be linked to a relative.

“I have a hole in my life because we don’t know where she is,” Acevedo told CNN.

Cayedito is among nearly 200 Native Americans and Native Americans missing in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

“I think that number is much higher,” Acevedo said. “I believe a lot of things are overlooked.”


The crisis prompted the FBI to act by calling on the agency’s best-known crime and terrorism intelligence assets to create a master database of missing Native Americans. The database includes photos of the missing as well as their age, sex and date of last contact. Officials say their hope is that it leads to more tips and leads from the public. Police say a number of challenges, including limited evidence in tribal communities and families who will not speak to police, have prevented them from solving many cases. The FBI database has been hailed by advocates who insist that cases of missing and murdered Native Americans don’t get the police attention they deserve.

The issue has caught the attention of President Joe Biden’s administration, which has rolled out a number of initiatives to address violence against Native Americans, including a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to investigate cases. while coordinating resources between federal agencies and Indian Country.

“The crisis of missing and murdered indigenous peoples has been going on for centuries, and it will take concentrated effort and time to untangle the many threads that are contributing to the alarming rates,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in May.

Ryan Summers, a supervisory intelligence analyst for the FBI, said names have already been removed from the database after their cases were resolved. Others have also been added, he said.

“I think that’s a good indication of what we’re getting back from the public,” Summers said.

The Navajo Nation police are also pleased with the FBI’s work in building the database.

Navajo Police Chief Daryl Noon acknowledged authorities need to work harder to solve cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

Noon, who has a family member who has already gone missing in California, said he understands the wait for answers and closure can be frustrating for families.
“We recognize that maybe we weren’t doing anything better than we should have been, we could have been,” Noon said. “And so that’s the result of that. We want the public to understand, we get it.

In this May 4, 2016, photo, Klandre Willie, left, and her mother, Jaycelyn Blackie, take part in a candlelight vigil in Lower Fruitland, New Mexico, for Ashlynne Mike, who was abducted and left for dead in a remote Navajo place.  Nation.  (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP, File)

Authorities say they have long faced a number of challenges that have prevented them from solving the cases. According to the police, in some cases, these are crimes between families and relatives refuse to provide information because they do not want the person responsible to go to prison. In other cases, the evidence is limited. Tribal communities generally do not have doorbell cameras or outdoor security cameras that help police investigate cases in urban or suburban areas.

“That’s why the FBI’s new database is so important — it allows the public to take an active role in helping law enforcement,” said an FBI special agent whom CNN agreed not to. not name as much of his work involves violent crime cases.

Advocates say they don’t believe police have dedicated enough resources to investigating cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

Darlene Gomez, a New Mexico attorney who represents the families of 17 missing and murdered Native Americans, said she was happy to see the FBI database, but still thinks the Navajo Nation police department doesn’t. do not have enough staff for these cases.

For example, Gomez said some Native Americans lived up to 200 miles from the nearest police station in their tribal community. With only a few officers employed at these stations, there are times when no one is even there to take a report or follow up on a lead, Gomez said.

Some Native Americans also don’t trust the police because their community is not represented, Gomez said. Officers, she said, are also known to blame the victim when they go missing.

Police need to do more to investigate cases, and the lack of technology shouldn’t be an obstacle, Gomez said.

“Police have been doing their job since the dawn of time,” Gomez said. “You have to go to old-fashioned police work. Go to grocery stores and gas stations and interview people.

Gomez said she believes missing people from Native American communities have not been prioritized by law enforcement.

“At the end of the day, it’s the need to have equality for everyone,” Gomez said. “And I believe that there is no equality between Native Americans and people of color. And the inequality is brought about by outside agencies, by the police department in general.

Meanwhile, Acevedo begs the public to go to the FBI database and look at all the photos of the missing. Any advice or information could help a family shut down, she said.

“You have so much time to be on Facebook, so much time to sit and scroll and scroll,” Acevedo said. “If it was your child, it would be important. He’s someone else’s child, make him important.

Nohemi M. Moore