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Local advocate calls on congress to do more on MMIWR

A local Indigenous leader testified Thursday at a U.S. congressional hearing highlighting the neglected crisis of missing and murdered Black, brown and Indigenous women and relatives, challenging lawmakers to remove barriers to solving these cases.

Angel Charley, a member of Laguna Pueblo and the Navajo Nation, is the executive director of the Albuquerque-based Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. She spoke before the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in its hearing, The Neglected Epidemic of Missing BIPOC Women and Girls.

“Our organization knows that it’s not if a Native woman will experience violence in her lifetime, but it’s when,” Charley told the panel.

New Mexico has the highest rate of MMIWR cases in the country, and more than four out of every five Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 study. 

Charley says that, while some progress has been made, bureaucracy continues to stand in the way of access to resources, support, justice and healing.

“It is the complexity of jurisdiction, the historic lack of funding and systemic racism that continue to fuel the crisis on MMIW,” she said.

She called out disparate treatment of Native women by law enforcement and media, and called on lawmakers to follow through on increasing funding, enacting existing recommendations, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which includes an expansion of tribal jurisdiction.

And in the absence of those steps, she reminded the panel, “that it is our communities that are left filling in the gaps of the system.”

In New Mexico, that means families and advocates often invest their own time and money in pursuing answers and justice in now-cold cases.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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