Originally published Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 09:59a.m.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation announced the appointment by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan of Navajo Nation First Lady Phefelia Nez to serve on the New Mexico’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force.

In March, Gov. Grisham signed N.M. House Bill 278 into law to establish a task force to investigate the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the state of New Mexico. Nez will assist the task force in assessing and determining how to increase state resources for reporting and identifying victims.

“Throughout our country, we hear far too many stories of families and victims who experience this traumatic epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and we need to put a stop to it, and it begins with collecting and analyzing the data,” Nez said. “Together through partnerships, we need to be proactive to protect our Indigenous women and children.”

In her new role, Nez will have the opportunity to work with state and federal officials, tribal members, and advocates to collaborate with tribal law enforcement agencies to identify barriers to improve the reporting, investigating and data collection of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Nez and Second Lady Dottie Lizer will also work closely with the state of Arizona’s study committee on missing and murdered Indigenous women to establish methods for collecting data, reviewing policies, practices, and prosecutorial practices, and identifying barriers to track violent crimes committed against Indigenous women and girls.

“The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children has not received adequate attention, which had led to a shortage in data that contributes to the ongoing problems, including the lack of prosecution and lack of coordination among local, state and federal law enforcement. As leaders, we need to be the voice for our women and children,” Lizer said.

To move efforts forward, the Office of the President and Vice President has also established an internal workgroup known as the “Diné Nihik’éí Nihíí’ Násdłįį’: Work Group, Reunite our Diné Relatives,” led by Nez and Lizer to address issues and concerns related to missing and murdered peoples and social ills impacting Navajo families, including Navajo men and boys. Most importantly, the focus is to heal, restore and reunite Navajo families.

Information provided by the Office of the President and Vice President

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