What are the steps forward to address missing and murdered Indigenous people?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Many faces and names are attached to an ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people as the state continues efforts to highlight the victims and end the problem.
Now, more help is on its way for families looking for closure or are wondering where their loved ones are – or even seeking closure as to how and why they were murdered, like Zach Shorty’s family.
"This is the hardest thing to deal with. Zach was my youngest and he was my baby. Zach was a mama’s boy," said Vangie Randall-Shorty, who is seeking justice for her son’s death.
Lawmakers passed a couple of bills this week to bring more light to this issue. A cosponsor of those bills is state Sen. Shannon Pinto.
"I think it’s a stepping stone, it will fill a lot of gaps that were there and I hope that we can, on a national basis, find some closures for a lot of the families," said Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-District 3.
One of the bills, SB0012, would create a ‘Missing Indigenous Person Specialist’ position in the attorney general’s office.
The specialist would:
- Work with all law enforcement (state, tribal and federal) on cases affecting Indigenous people
- Complete cultural competency- and trauma-informed investigation training relevant to Indigenous cultures
- Work with other states on these cases
A report for a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task force said New Mexico had some of the highest cases for this issue and points out that the problem is severely underreported.
Another bill, SB0013, passed would create a "Missing in New Mexico" event each year, where law enforcement would come together and share information on missing cases. This would allow for a more-complete database and more overlaps could be investigated.
Both bills now head to the governor’s desk.