To mark the second annual National Day of Awareness: Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, a rally will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Berg Park in Farmington.
Organized by the Law Offices of Darlene Gomez, and Vangie Randall-Shorty, director of the northwest branch of New Mexico Crusaders for Justice, Gomez said the rally is “put forward by the families of missing and murdered Indigenous woman and relatives.”
“The goal is for justice and to bring awareness (to MMIP issues),” Gomez said. “All are welcome. There will a bounce house for the kids.”
President Joe Biden declared May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day on May 4, 2022, when he signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022.
The proclamation stated, “This important law expands special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on Tribal law enforcement officers on Tribal lands and supports the development of a pilot project to enhance access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages.”
Last year, Gomez and Randall-Shorty organized the first National Day of Awareness rally because of the high percentage of missing and murdered Indigenous people from Farmington and surrounding areas.
According to the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department 2014-2019 statistics, females constitute 66% of Native American missing person cases in Farmington. In New Mexico, homicide rates of Native American women is higher than any other racial and ethnic group.
Statistics also showed that of the solved homicide cases in Farmington, 43% were Native Americans and 48% of missing persons in Farmington were Native Americans, surpassed only by 76% in Gallup. Albuquerque and Gallup are two of the top 10 cities in the United States for missing and murdered Indigenous persons.
Randall-Shorty is the mother of Zachariah Juwaun Shorty, who was last seen alive July 21, 2020 at the Journey Inn in Farmington. He was found dead from gunshot wounds in an isolated field in Nenahnezad July 25, 2020.
“My Zachariah was passionate about his music, and wanted to learn to be a tattoo artist,” Randall-Shorty said of her son, adding that he was about to launch a career as a recording artist when he died. “His life was just beginning, only 23 years old.”
There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of those responsible for his death.
Gomez, an attorney based in Albuquerque who works pro bono on MMIP cases, represents 18 New Mexico families, including Randall-Shorty. Gomez has brought attention to MMIP cases by sharing information about her clients’ cases with media outlets.
The story of Pepita Madalyn Redhair, who was last seen Nov. 16, 2022, was featured on season 10 of the Investigation Discovery television series “Disappeared.” Zachariah Juwaun Shorty’s story was featured on Eric Carter-Landin’s podcast “True Consequences.”
The National Day of Awareness rally is a free, family-friendly event. Donations may be made via Zelle and at the rally. All donations will go directly to Gomez’s 18 clients to help with expenses incurred by families as they conduct their own investigations into the disappearances or deaths of loved ones.
“Desperate for answers, they drop everything to follow leads around the state and Navajo Nation,” Gomez said.
Rally organizers have invited various civic and law enforcement officials to participate in the rally, such as tribal council members, Bureau of Indian Affairs, city council members, FBI and churches. Any group or individual in search of justice for Indigenous people is invited to attend. As of Monday, 4Corners K-9 Search & Rescue and AIM Diné Bikéyah Chapter have confirmed their participation.
After the rally, Randall-Shorty invites the public to attend a balloon release to commemorate her son, Zachariah’s, birthday at 6 p.m. at Brook Haven Park-East, 805 W. Apache St. Shorty was born May 5, 1997.
In collaboration with the Farmington rally, Native Women Running will host a virtual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Healing and Prayer Run from May 4 to 7. Participants may also hike, swim, walk or engage in any type movement to show their support. All activities are completed remotely.
Proceeds from the run will benefit the Law Offices of Darlene Gomez’s MMIWR fund. To register, visit bit.ly/41VT8as. Event T-shirts may be purchased online. For more information on the organization, visit Native Women Running on Facebook and Instagram.
“It is important that the money will benefit families. [You] will see your dollars at work,” Gomez said.
The Law offices of Darlene Gomez: email@example.com, www.dargomezlaw.com.
Vangie Randall-Shorty: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northwest New Mexico Crusaders for Justice: A support group for families of victims: www.facebook.com/groups/659130935745109.
Farmington New Mexico FBI office: 650 W. Main St., (505) 326-5584, tips.fbi.gov.
Those who may have information about the murder of Zachariah Juwaun Shorty, the disappearance of Pepita Madalyn Redhair or the whereabouts of any other missing or murdered Indigenous person, are asked to contact the Farmington New Mexico FBI office. Tips may remain anonymous.