Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Indigenous families in Farmington, NM, seek justice – Liberation News

On November 13, Indigenous families and supporters gathered in Farmington, New Mexico for a march and rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR). Parishioners called for a state investigation into the July 2021 murder of Zachariah Shorty while they mourned and sought justice for many lost relatives. Out of solidarity, the PSL branch in Albuquerque sent a contingent and materials.

Farmington is in the northwest of the state, not far from the Navajo reservation. Called the Four Corners because of the confluence of the state lines of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, the region is historically home to numerous Native American peoples. There are other reserves nearby, and the Hopi, Zuni and two Ute nations call the region their home.

People from across the Four Corners region are aware of the MMIR epidemic. Passers-by in Farmington, after asking about the purpose of the march, were immediately aware of the problem and expressed their sympathy and support.

Zachariah Shorty – a son, father, and brother known for his kindness and love of sports and music – went missing in late July 2021. His body was found a week later. In 2015, his brother was killed in a car accident. Unfortunately, many in the Four Corners area are familiar with these complicated tragedies.

The crowd, roughly 70, marched through downtown Farmington, carrying signs demanding justice for several of the victims lost over the years: Zachariah Shorty, Pepita Redhair, Ella Mae Begay and Melanie James. Demonstrators sang and cheered: “No more stolen brothers, no stolen sisters, no more stolen aunts, no more stolen children.” Other chants called for justice, transparency and reform.

At an emotional rally at the end of the march, Shorty’s family members shared the pain of losing a relative. They expressed their frustration at detectives who denied the seriousness of the investigation or promised but failed to provide answers.

Shorty’s sister Eugenia Charles-Newton said, “We are standing here on another march asking for justice because we know that justice has not been done.”

Family members of murdered and missing indigenous relatives at the Farmington rally. Liberation photo.

Numerous families drove long distances to Farmington and expressed similar pain, dissatisfaction and frustration with investigators. Some reported by state and state agencies that investigations ended prematurely with no results, citing alleged victims’ alleged links with drug selling or buying, addiction, or suicide.

Family members have complained that they are forced to take the initiative in carrying out their own investigations, but they are often encroached upon by state or federal agencies that shut down search parties and other investigative efforts.

Towards the end of the rally, Shorty’s mother Vangie released blue and black balloons for his favorite NFL team and played a song he had recorded.

The crowd then split when a musician concluded the program with a talk on suicide and addiction, and then provided the crowd with supportive information and materials.

It is no coincidence that 50 years ago the American Indian Movement began to organize in cities like Farmington. AIM protested many of the same issues as government violence and inaction. Some of the people who marched as teenagers in the 1970s marched again for Zachariah Shorty in 2021.

Indigenous families and their supporters know that the epidemic of missing and murdered loved ones is only a continuation of the colonial violence against them. Indigenous communities in the Four Corners region have long called for justice and change in institutions that bring them no results. The coalition of families of the victims, racist parishioners, supporters and organizers will continue to fight for change so that missing loved ones can find justice and those who are still here can have confidence that their future is secure.

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