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FBI, local advocates launch new effort to locate missing indigenous people

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 19:58:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal and local teams launched a new effort to solve the crisis of missing indigenous people in Utah and across the country.

The FBI released the names, ages and pictures of over 170 missing Native Americans across New Mexico and the Navajo nation – land that spans Utah and Arizona as well.

“I really feel like it’s a step in the right direction,” said Angela Romero, co-chair of the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls task force.

Moroni Benally, an indigenous scholar calls it a “really good strategy.”

"These are our relatives, these people are part of us, and we too cannot be whole until they are brought back home," Benally said in part. "Any tools that are available to help that happen, I think that’s good.”

To help combat the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls here in Utah, the state created a task force in 2020 whose role is to research the root cause of the problem and present actionable solutions to the legislature.

“Hundreds of our indigenous relatives were coming and sharing their stories of intense loss, of intense feelings of never having closure,” added Benally.

He explained a reason native people are missing could be because of colonial stress or distrust of law enforcement.

“That impacts their desire to report something, so a lot of them won’t report it,” Benally explained.

The task force is helping bridge those gaps and doing its part to bring people home.

“Some of the members of the task force are the attorney general’s office, the department of public safety, and so for us, it’s connecting those families that have questions about the cold cases of their family members to get an update or status,” said Rep. Romero.

The murdered and missing indigenous women and girls task force received funding this legislative session to collect data and do research on this problem in the community. The task force itself will be in place till next year, but Representative Romero says she wants to ask for an extension until 2024.