Utah group hosting healing and prayer event for missing, murdered Indigenous people

May 4, 2024, 11:43 AM

MADISON, WISCONSIN - MAY 05: Signs to commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls a...

MADISON, WISCONSIN - MAY 05: Signs to commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are placed outside of the Wisconsin State Capitol on May 05, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. According to the Washington State Patrol, figures show that 126 Indigenous people are unaccounted for in the state. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, data collected by researchers from 71 cities across 29 states shows 506 cases of missing and murdered native women and girls in the U.S. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

MIDVALE — Recognizing the disproportionately high rates of violence that Indigenous people face, Shelby Chapoose hopes, can lead to change.

“We cannot be a functioning society as long as these injustices continue,” said Chapoose, executive director of Indigenous Health and Wellness Connections, a Midvale-based advocacy group for the indigenous community. “Coming together as a community to support, learn and take action is a vital step toward healing and change.”

With that in mind, the organization is hosting a Healing and Prayer Event on Sunday as part of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. It goes from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will be held at Warm Springs Park, 840 N. 300 West in Salt Lake City. The event — one of many across the country to mark the day, according to Native News Online — serves to educate participants and will also include discussion and prayer.

“By acknowledging the land and the lives of our missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, we honor our value and add power to the collective healing process,” Chapoose said. “It is vital for our communities to gather, share our stories and support each other in these efforts.”

SLC mural unveiled for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day

President Joe Biden issued a statement Friday noting that Native American communities “have been devastated by an epidemic of disappearances and killings, too often without resolution, justice or accountability.” He went on, saying Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day serves “to honor the individuals missing and the lives lost” and that government leaders “recommit” to working with tribal leaders to address the issues.

American Indian and Alaska Native people face “a disproportionate risk” of facing violence, being murdered or going missing, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs. They account for “a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases.”

Last March, responding to a series of recommendations issued in November by the Not Invisible Act Commission to help address the situation, federal officials acknowledged that more needs to be done. “We see you and hear you, and you have our sincerest condolences,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

Biden’s proclamation on Friday referenced some of the steps his administration has taken, including moves to implement Not Invisible Act Commission recommendations. Federal officials have accelerated investigations in the area while the U.S. Department of Interior and FBI have hired more personnel to assist in the process.

In a blog on Thursday, Nicole Stahlmann with the Division of Nursing Services within Indian Health Service noted the particular dangers Indigenous women face. Indian Health Service is within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Alarmingly, an average of 40% of women involved in sex trafficking are identified as American Indian and Alaska Native,” she wrote. Homicide, she went on, “is the third-highest cause of death for Native girls aged 15 to 19 and women aged 20 to 24. In some communities, American Indian and Alaska Native women face murder rates more than 10 times the national average.”

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Utah group hosting healing and prayer event for missing, murdered Indigenous people