A prayer run through the Four Corners and Cortez will take place this month to raise awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous people.
The Four Corners Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Prayer Run will take place Feb. 24-27 and traverse 232 miles through area towns and the Navajo and Ute Mountain Ute reservations.
The event begins and ends at Montezuma Creek, and there is no cost. To sign up for part or all of the event, and for information, email organizers at email@example.com.
“The prayer run is not a race, each step is a prayer for the extraordinary number of Indigenous women girls, men and elderly who go missing,” states a news release from Native Search Solutions. “It is an effort to draw awareness to the crisis happening on all tribal lands throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
Support vehicles, transportation shuttles and aid stations are available for participants. Public safety agencies will assist along the course. Lodging is being provided by churches and chapter houses along the route, and volunteers are providing meals.
“It is open to everyone, Natives and non-natives. People will go at their own pace, and walk or run as much as they want,” said organizer Martina Maryboy. “Prayers are said at the beginning and end of each day. There will be information handed out about this serious crisis of missing people. The families carry pictures of their missing loved ones.”
- Feb. 24, Montezuma Creek to Blanding.
- Feb. 25, Blanding to St Barnabas of the Valley Episcopal Church in Cortez.
- Feb. 26, Cortez to Beclabito Chapter House.
- Feb. 27, Beclabito to Montezuma Creek.
Runners and family members of the missing will walk and caravan the final 7 miles into Montezuma Creek. A dinner will be served at the St. John the Baptizer church, on the corner of Utah Highway 162 and Nathan Road. There will be presentation about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people and an open mic for people to share their stories.
The event is in the style of a relay, with individuals running or walking a certain distance, often accompanied by families, said organizer Chiara Amoroso of Native Search Solutions. Each night, people can camp or stay in local churches and have a dinner.
It is being funded by donations, which are also used to support search efforts for missing people. For information on donations, contact Native Search Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When runners and support staff arrive in Cortez, St. Barnabas church will provide lodging, said pastor Doug Bleyle. A meal is being brought over from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Durango.
“Bringing visibility to this issue is important, we are preparing for their arrival,” he said.
A Four Corners prayer run in August attracted about 60 people, Maryboy said, and the hope is participation will increase for this event.
“A group of us started this when we realized nobody seems to know or care about this crisis of missing Indigenous people, we want families of the missing to have a voice and to be heard,” Maryboy said “Every step taken in prayer for the missing, for their safe return and for good news for the families. The families need a voice and justice, they need to be taken seriously and not brushed off.”
The Four Corners prayer runs also are a networking opportunity for families who have a missing relative, she said.
“Families who did not know each other are meeting and supporting each other, they are sharing information and organizing search efforts,” Maryboy said. “Too often, families with missing are on their own.”
She said the Four Corners needs more coordination and cooperation between the law-enforcement jurisdictions on searching for missing people on reservation lands. Search technology and resources also are needed.
American and Alaskan Native people are at a disproportionate risk of experiencing violence, and they make up a significant portion of cases of missing and murdered people, according to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the murder rate of women on reservations is 10 times higher than the national average, and the No. 3 cause of death for Native women.
More than 80% of American and Alaska Native men have experienced violence, according to National Institute of Justice. Overall, more than 1.4 million American and Alaska Native men have experienced violence.
In April, U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland announced the formation of the Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services.
“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian Country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a news release. “The new MMU unit will provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe and provide closure for families.”
About 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing people have been entered into the National Crime Information Center throughout the U.S., and about 2,700 cases of murder and non-negligent homicide offenses have been reported to the federal government’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
For more information on missing Indigenous people go to www.bia.gov/service/mmu.