MMIWR Task Force disbands, leaving unanswered questions

[anvplayer video=”5196490″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For a state leading the nation in missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the creation of a task force to address the problem brought relief to families in New Mexico.

“Any glimmer of hope that these families had, they’re not going to have it anymore,” Darlene Gomez said.

That’s because the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force was suddenly told its work was done.

Gomez served on the Community Impact committee for the task force. As an attorney, she advocated for victims’ families.

Gomez said there are still 180 families in the state that are trying to find either their loved ones or justice. She believes the work was just getting started.

“If we have completed the task and we no longer have a problem, how come we’re number one?” Gomez said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham created the task force through an executive order in 2021. The order states the task force would develop a state response plan to address the crisis.

Gomez said she and other members learned the task force was ending in June. However, she never received official notice.

“I don’t even think some individuals know, to this day,” Gomez said.

KOB 4 reached out to the state Department of Indian Affairs. A spokesperson said the task force completed all the directions outlined by the governor in the executive order, including developing a state response plan. They said the task force was only intended to be temporary.

Gomez posted the news to her Facebook Thursday, after an article on the task force’s end was published. Her phone started ringing – it was Vangie Randall-Shorty. Her son Zachariah Shorty disappeared from Farmington in 2020 and was found dead days later. He had been shot multiple times.

Randall-Shorty had worked with Gomez for years.

“I don’t know where to turn to now,” Randall-Shorty said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. What does this mean for the families? What does this mean for Zach?”

Gomez said that, sadly, many other families feel the same.

“They’re still waiting and wondering and looking for them and looking for them, and I would just ask each one of you, what would you do if your sister went missing? Or your mom went missing, or your brother?” Gomez asked.

The Indian Affairs Department rep said the work on this problem is not stopping or slowing. The governor and the Indian Affairs Secretary-designate James Mountain are reportedly working to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Gomez believes the end of the task force is connected to Mountain. He was charged with sexual assault 15 years ago, and some task force members spoke out when Lujan Grisham appointed Mountain. The charge was ultimately dismissed.