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Families of missing, murdered Indigenous people hope for more resources during crisis

Posted at 10:18 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 18:24:32-04

PHOENIX — For the hundreds of people dressed in red at the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday, the theme was "silent no more."

During a march, one surviving family member screamed, “no more stolen sisters” at the top of her lungs as it was echoed back.

Organizers estimate half of the people at the Capitol on Thursday who sought to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous persons day have someone in their life who was either killed or has yet to be found.

Like Katrina Yazzi of Parker, Arizona.

Yazzi says she the voice for her late cousin, Molina 'Shaggy' Yazzie.

She tells us back in 2017, Molina left with a friend and disappeared for a month.

Katrina feels police couldn't give her cousin's case enough attention.

“The officer stated she didn't want to be found,” she said

So, she and family searched on their own.

A month after she vanished, Molina's body was found in a field.

“It’s hard, but sharing her story makes me strong to share it and raise awareness,” she said.

Katrina says police determined Molina's cause of death was a drug overdose, but family says her body was found without eyes and missing three fingers on one of her hands.

Family believes Molina was murdered.

A story like this is common for surviving Indigenous families across the country.

The Urban Indian Health Institute out of Seattle measures homicide is the third-leading cause of death among Native American women and Native women face rates of violence up to 10 times higher than the national average.

“Helping families search for loved ones, because we had to..."

Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya started her own consulting service that ranges from helping assault victims, to organizing searches for missing people, even rescuing people caught up in human trafficking.

During a workshop, she told a room of people she helps families search for loved ones because she “had to.”

She says it's common for Indigenous people to run into harm when trying to seek opportunity like jobs or college away from their home on the reservation.

Her hope with awareness events like the one at the capitol on Thursday gives families an idea of the independent services available to them.

If there was one immediate solution to finding those who are missing, Imus-Nahsonhoya wishes more law enforcement resources were available to help when families are in need.

"One of the things we learned in our study here in Arizona, those [missing people] data bases are not communicating."

Sharing the story of what happened to her cousin back in 2017 isn’t an easy story to share for Katrina, but making others aware of what happened to her and how she had to conduct her own search is part the effort to be, “silent, no more” for murdered and missing Indigenous persons.

"Be there voice for them, because they're gone,” she said.