Tribes Gather to Address MMIP Crisis May 5
Gila River Indian News
Tribal members, leaders and more from across Arizona and states bordering it gathered at the Arizona State Capitol on May 5 to focus attention on the crisis concerning Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP). The event attracted hundreds of attendees, ranging from Arizona activists and artists to Arizona state legislators, GRIC Community members, and Lt. Gov. Monica Antone.
Honwungsi Consulting Services and Southwest Indigenous Women’s Coalition (SWIWC) organized the event to recognize Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Awareness Day, which was first proclaimed by U.S. President Joe Biden in 2021 and then by Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis for the Community in 2022.
The event started with educational workshops from 3 to 5 p.m. inside the Capitol building covering MMIP efforts and related topics, including one on the Arizona MMIP Study presented by Arizona State University’s Research on Violent Victimization Lab.
At 5 p.m., former GRIC Lt. Gov. Robert Stone performed a traditional Community prayer to begin the gathering outside of the Capitol. Then Jason Chavez, Director of Tribal Affairs from the Office of Gov. Katie Hobbs, read the 2023 MMIP Awareness Day Proclamation. Chavez shared the collaborative efforts of state, federal and tribal agencies to address recommendations to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force to reduce and end violence against Indigenous People in Arizona.
Lt. Gov. Antone, a current member of the state’s Study Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, also addressed the gathering.
“To each of the tribes here, this is what we are all about...,” she said. “All the pictures that you are holding dear to your heart, just know that our prayers always go out to you. Whatever we can do on this Missing and Murdered Task force, we are not going to give up on this, we are going to continue to fight, and we are not going to give up on finding these answers and having people work with us.”
By 5:30 in the evening, hundreds of attendees wearing red clothing and accessories to represent the lost lives of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People blocked South 17th Avenue to circle the front of the Arizona Capitol building. Then, Chi’Chino Spirit O’otham Dance Group performed traditional Akimel O’otham songs and dances.
At around 7:45 p.m., the Governor’s Tower and State Capitol were lit in red and a small vigil was held with red imitation candles in front of the State Capitol in remembrance of the Indigenous lives lost in this epidemic of violence.