Agencies meet with AZ tribal families to help find missing loved ones


On Wednesday, tribal and federal agencies met with families from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in White River to help find their missing loved ones.

During the meeting, hosted by the Pinetop-Lakeside Resident Agency of the FBI Phoenix office, the families filed reports on missing loved ones, provided authorities with information to identify them, and connected to resources and services. support available, the FBI office in Phoenix said in a statement. .

According to a 2019 study by the Urban Indian Health Institute that analyzed cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in 29 states, Arizona had the third highest number of cases.

About two-thirds of the cases in the study are between 2010 and 2018. Of the 506 national cases collected, 54 occurred in Arizona. The study collected data in 71 selected cities, including Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson. Tucson also ranked third among cities surveyed, with 31 of the 54 cases occurring statewide.

A separate study published in 2020 by Arizona State University in partnership with the House Bill 2570 Legislative Study Committee shows that 160 women and girls were missing in Arizona from 1976 to 2018.

According to data from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the counties in Arizona that appear to have the highest cases of missing Natives are Maricopa and Navajo counties. Other data from Justice for Native Women shows that of 58 cases of missing Native women in Arizona between 2000 and 2020, none were considered officially resolved.

Former Navajo Nation police chief Phillip Francisco said it’s more common for tribal agencies to work closely with family members of missing persons, while federal agencies have been reluctant in the past. provide families with information about investigation processes.

“Federal agents don’t have that direct connection or interest in tribal members like tribal police do, so I think that’s where part of the disconnect is,” Francisco said. “I think it’s a positive thing, the FBI realizes how important these cases are to the families. I think it’s been a long time for federal agencies to come to the table to try to have a better connection. directly with families.

Wednesday’s meeting also allowed law enforcement to close reports of family members who had already been found but remained on missing persons lists, authorities said.

More meetings are expected to take place at other tribal reservations in the state over the coming months as part of a missing persons identification project, according to the FBI.

Law enforcement agencies that participated in Wednesday’s meeting included the FBI, White Mountain Police Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs Missing and Murdered Persons Unit, United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Reach out to breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at or on Twitter @lauradNews.

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