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As MMIWG crisis continues, Navajo Nation calls for emergency 911

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Shelby Kleinhans
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Source NM

In the wake of a congressional hearing on the disproportionate rate of BIPOC women and girls who go missing in the U.S., a representative of the Navajo Nation connects the crisis there to the lack of a modern 911 system.

About 40% of missing women and girls in 2020 were people of color, yet they account for just 16% of the population, according to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which convened the March 3 hearing.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty heads her nation’s sexual assult prevention subcommittee and helped establish the working group Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives. Crotty said there have been some victories surrounding the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples crisis, like gaining access to Amber Alerts in tribal lands, but the absence of emergency 911 – across a tribal nation about the size of West Virginia – impedes further progress.

“When I call for help or assistance, I’m calling directly to the dispatch, and just like right now, where we’re having challenges with the wind or any type of weather-related [issues], if that number is wiped out then that just delays,” Crotty said. “There’s no 911 on Navajo Nation.”

One of their ideas is to use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to modernize the 911 system.

More than that, Crotty said a lack of standard addresses in rural areas also adds to law enforcement response times. She estimated only about 10% of homes in rural areas have an address, instead of a PO Box.

She’s calling for more federal support.

“We need our federal partners not only to hear and request reports. We need them to take action. They need appropriate dollars,” Crotty said after mentioning the Navajo Nation’s public safety budget hasn’t increased in more than 10 years despite increased violence.

She also thinks – as does the Government Accountability Office – that it’s taking the federal government too long to establish a multi-agency commission to address the missing and murdered Indigenous people’s crisis, per The Not Invisible Act.

New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, and Utah ranked among the states with the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls cases in urban areas, as of a 2018 report from the Urban Indian Health Institute.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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