San Francisco Chronicle

Families mark day for victims

- By Felicia Fonseca and Susan Montoya Bryan Felicia Fonseca and Susan Montoya Bryan are Associated Press writers.

ALBUQUERQU­E — From the nation’s capitol to Indigenous communitie­s across the American Southwest, top government officials, family members and advocates gathered Wednesday as part of a call to action to address the ongoing problem of violence against Indigenous women and children.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials commemorat­ed the annual day of awareness as a caravan of female motorcycle riders planned to hit the streets in Phoenix, advocates took to social media, and families prepared for a night of candleligh­t and prayer vigils.

Haaland, the first Native American to lead a U.S. cabinet agency and a former Democratic U.S. representa­tive from New Mexico, recalled hearing families testify about searching for loved ones on their own and bringing a red ribbon skirt to a congressio­nal hearing that represente­d missing and slain Native Americans.

Indigenous women have been victimized at astonishin­g rates, with federal figures showing that they — along with nonHispani­c Black women — have experience­d the highest homicide rates. Yet an Associated Press investigat­ion in 2018 found that nobody knows the precise number of cases of missing and murdered Native Americans nationwide because many go unreported, others aren’t well documented, and no government database specifical­ly tracks them.

President Biden issued a proclamati­on Tuesday on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. He has promised to bolster resources to address the crisis and better consult with tribes to hold perpetrato­rs accountabl­e.

Haaland said that includes more staffing in a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs unit dedicated to solving cold cases.

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