Relatives and friends of missing or murdered Natives are encouraged to join monthly Family Talking Circles organized by a Washington task force.
At a recent meeting, members of the Washington Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People highlighted the need to do a better job of letting relatives and friends know that resources are available. One way would be to provide this information to those who join Family Talking Circles, which take place virtually. The next Family Talking Circle begins at 4 p.m. Monday.
Family Talking Circles provide a place where survivors, family members, and affected community members can come together to share their experiences and find support.
Participants don’t have to speak, but everything they share is confidential and provides important insight into the decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and the best ways to address it.
Members of the working group met virtually for their quarterly meeting on Wednesday. It was the first meeting of the full task force – which has five subcommittees that meet separately – since August 1, when members released their interim report.
Among the report’s 10 preliminary recommendations, law enforcement agencies should find ways to improve communication and transparency with family members in cases of missing and murdered women and Indigenous people.
The report also recommends that all law enforcement agencies expand their collaboration and coordination with federal, state, county, local and tribal health and social services. The working group will develop best practices for law enforcement agencies and for health and social services to improve collaboration and coordination.
It’s important to improve crisis response when people go missing or are murdered and understand the immediate needs, said Annie Forsman-Adams, policy analyst for MMIW/P in the state attorney general’s office.
“A mental health crisis, domestic violence, or some other really difficult issue, law enforcement isn’t always equipped to handle that and provide the services and resources to give the family the support they need. need to get through this,” Forsman-Adams said, mentioning the possibility of crisis response teams.
Task Force Executive Secretary Charlene Tillequots of the Yakama Nation mentioned an example of Yakama Tribal Policing working with Yakama Nation Behavioral Health Services. A behavioral health worker responded to police calls about missing and murdered people, Tillequots said, and advocated for them and their families.
“We hope we can get more people like that (who) sit on the side of behavioral health, coach officers and help steer them in the right direction,” she said.
Dozens of women and men have disappeared, been murdered and died mysteriously over the decades in and beyond the 1.3 million acre Yakama reservation in Yakima and Klickitat counties. Its size poses a challenge to law enforcement and emergency response personnel.
Assistance to law enforcement
Tillequots cited a Sept. 8 press conference at Yakama Nation headquarters in Toppenish where Yakama Nation and Yakima County officials said local departments did not have the number of officers. necessary to patrol the vast areas of the county and the reserve.
Yakama isn’t alone in facing critical staffing challenges. “The lack of officers…we see it all over Indian Country,” Tillequots said.
Task force member Patsy Whitefoot, who is a member of the Federal Uninvisible Law Commission along with Tribal Police Officer Yakama Bazil-Lu Adams, said she is asking for increased funding for law enforcement. tribal. Commission members meet regularly and will hold hearings on the ground, Whitefoot said.
Forsman-Adams also wants to see more support for the communities and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men.
“Communities and families are still primarily the ones to search for missing persons and there needs to be some support for these processes, including funding and training,” she added.