Fri May 19th, 2023
Robert L. Ortiz
The Southern Ute Drum
Categories: Top Stories
Tags: A Gathering Basket, Ceriss Blackwood (Indigenous Chicana), Daisy Bluestar, Dominic Sandoval, FBI’s National Crime Information Center, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) Prayer Walk, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Taskforce of Colorado, MMIR Rally in Colorado Springs, MMIR Rally in Denver, Nahui Ollin Spiritual Runners from Denver, National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Rally, Native Love, Nieda Chakee (Southern Ute) and Cynthia Buckskin (Southern Ute), Oolcu Buckskin (Southern Ute), Trennie Burch Foster
Prayer Walk honors Dominic Sandoval
Over 40 walkers and supporters made the 15-mile trek for the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) Prayer Walk, which traversed into Southern Ute land from Elmore’s Corner, at the junction of Highway 172 and U.S. Highway 160.
The MMIR Awareness Walk is organized by members of Native Love and Daisy Bluestar, a member of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives of Colorado Task Force. The MMIR of Colorado Task Force is a grassroots group of advocates working to bring awareness to the crisis level of violence against Indigenous people in Colorado, which was founded in 2020.
In its second year, the walk included 10 members of the Nahui Ollin Spiritual Runners from Denver. The runners also participated in the 2022 walk. The runners walked with group to the north side of “Airport Hill” on Highway 172, then returned to Elmore’s Corner to begin their segment of the run. The runners caught up with the group at the junction of Highway 172 and County Road 315.
The prayer walk also was in remembrance of Dominic Sandoval, who was killed while working on Hwy. 172, Feb. 10, 2022 while setting up a work zone.
Family members of Dominic Sandoval participated in this year’s walk. Sandoval’s mother, Diana Lee spoke at the memorial, which the family erected in memory of Dominic, on Hwy. 172. Lee spoke of how her family misses Dominic, and the joy he brought to their family.
“We wait for him to walk through the door, after work, seeing his smile,” Lee said.
MMIR of Colorado Task Force & Native Love
Native Love was instrumental in bringing awareness through the recent walk for missing and murdered women and relatives, which plagues Native American communities. Other members of Native Love include: Oolcu Buckskin (Southern Ute), Ceriss Blackwood (Indigenous Chicana), Nieda Chakee (Southern Ute) and Cynthia Buckskin (Southern Ute). For more information about native Love visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085654733120
According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, in 2020 alone there were 5,295 Indigenous women and 4,276 Indigenous men reported missing across the United States.
Daisy Bluestar, a Southern Ute tribal member, is one of those who organized the MMIR Walk. Bluestar is on the MMIR of Colorado Task Force, and the Executive Director of Native Love, a local non-profit based in the ELHI Community Center in Ignacio, Colo.
Bluestar has spoken on behalf of the MMIR movement as a member of the MMIR of Colorado Task Force at the State Capitol on a number of occasions. She is one of the six-person task force.
Trennie Burch Foster, a Southern Ute tribal member, has recently joined the MMIR of Colorado Task Force. Burch Foster is the current Creative Director for A Gathering Basket in Denver. Foster took part in the MMIR Rally in Denver at the State Capitol and the MMIR Rally in Colorado Springs, and recently helped in the search for a missing Indigenous sister.
Senate Bill 22-150: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives
According to a news release published Jan. 2, 2022 from the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Taskforce of Colorado, local police and sheriff departments will notify Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) of a missing Indigenous person through an existing alert system. CBI will then communicate with other law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the missing person.
The alert comes as a result of Senate Bill 22-150, which requires the Colorado Department of Public Safety to “improve the investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous relative cases and address injustice in the criminal justice system’s response to the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous relative cases.”
SB 22-150 also states, “The act creates the office of liaison for missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (office) in the department to serve as a liaison on behalf of the Indigenous community on issues related to missing or murdered Indigenous relatives and carry out duties assigned by the executive director.”
Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on June 8, 2022. To view the full SB 22-150 Bill, visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb22-150
Senate Bill 23-054: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office
The Colorado Bill, SB 23-054 was recently passed in the First Regular Session of the 74th General Assembly, Colorado General Assembly and delivered to Governor Polis Monday, May 15.
The proposed bill, SB 23-054, published by the State of Colorado as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives: Concerning the duties of the office of liaison for missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation.
SB23-054 requires the office of liaison for missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (office) in the department of public safety (department) to: Conduct case reviews of violent or exploitative crimes against an Indigenous person and publish a report about the case reviews annually; Communicate with relevant department divisions regarding investigations in cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous relatives; Seek a position for a representative of the Indigenous community on the sentencing reform task force of the Colorado commission on criminal and juvenile justice; Collaborate with Indigenous-led organizations and the Colorado district attorneys’ council (CDAC) to assist CDAC in developing and providing training for victim advocates who work on missing or murdered Indigenous relatives cases; and Designate one employee of the office to serve as a point of contact for families in need of support regarding ongoing or completed missing or murdered Indigenous relatives cases.
SB 23-054 also states: “The bill grants office personnel access to relevant criminal justice records and medical, coroner, and laboratory records in the custody of state or local agencies that are necessary for the office to perform its duties. The bill permits the office to seek, accept, and expend gifts, grants, or donations in order to carry out the office’s duties and to provide financial support to missing or murdered Indigenous relatives’ families.”
To view the SB 23-054 Bill, visit: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/SB23-054
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day
In 2021, President Joe Biden declared May 5th as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day and issued an Executive Order to prioritize the crisis of MMIR. And less than a month after taking office, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, announced the creation of the Missing and Murdered Unit within the Office of Justice Services to investigate missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. In addition, she has announced that the Department of the Interior’s 2023 budget will include $16.5 million to address the crisis.
In recognition of the National Day of Remembrance MMIR, the Southern Ute Tribal Council encouraged employees to wear red on Friday, May 5 – in honor and observance of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. Other Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day events were held across Colorado and in other tribal communities throughout the U.S. on May 5.
A MMIR Rally at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver was organized by the American Indian Academy of Denver (AIAD) to, “bring justice for our missing, murdered, found relatives.”
A National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Rally was also held in downtown Colorado Springs on Friday, May 5. Indigenous women and supporters walked from Acacia Park, stopping at City Hall and ending the march at the “Take Back the Power” mural.
Violence against Native Relatives statistics (from the National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Rally):
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Taskforce of Colorado also continuously updates a list of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives in Colorado on their Facebook page.
To look for more information and to view the list, visit the Missing and Murdered Indigenous relatives Task Force of Colorado on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MMIRofColorado/