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Utah group hosts healing and prayer event for missing, murdered indigenous people

MIDVAL – Recognizing the disproportionate levels of violence faced by Indigenous people, 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 Indigenous community advocacy group. “Coming together as a community to support, learn and take action is a critical 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 runs 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 also includes discussion and prayer.

“By recognizing the land and lives of our missing and murdered Indigenous family members, we honor our worth and add strength to the collective healing process,” Chapoose said. “It is essential for our communities to come together, 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 continued, saying Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day serves “to honor the missing persons and lives lost” and that government leaders are “recommitted” to working with tribal leaders to address the issues.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, American Indians and Alaska Natives are “at disproportionate risk” of violence, murder or disappearance. They are responsible for “a significant portion of missing and murdered cases.”

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

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

In a blog post Thursday, Nicole Stahlmann of Indian Health Nursing noted the specific dangers indigenous women face. Indian Health Service is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Alarmingly, on average, 40% of women involved in sex trafficking identify as American Indian and Alaska Native,” she wrote. Homicide, she continued, “is the third highest cause of death for Indigenous girls aged 15 to 19 and women aged 20 to 24.” In some communities, American Indian and Alaska Native women face homicide rates ten times higher than the national average. ”