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Four Corners Prayer Run raises awareness of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Peoples


Native Lens


People across the country — and now in Colorado — are running and praying with the purpose of bringing awareness to the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP). On February 27, a 232-mile MMIW/MMIP Prayer Run finished its prayerful steps through the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. It was four-day walk/run where participants took turns — relaying to the next person — to carry on the demonstration, while processing some of their grief.

The murder rate for Native American women is 10 times higher the national average when compared to all other ethnicities, according to the Boulder-based nonprofit Native Women’s Wilderness.

Martina Maryboy, the organizer of the event, wanted to bring knowledge of the issue throughout the Four Corners with a call to action. Martina said she noticed a lack of law enforcement resources and that because attention to these crimes is limited, families are often compelled to take it into their own hands to investigate their missing relatives’ cases.

“I want to be the voice for my missing sister, our missing relatives,” Maryboy said. “Hopefully I really do make a difference. I’m getting more people involved, more voices. I mean, we are the voices for those that are missing. Our missing relatives, our missing sisters, our missing brothers, our missing kids … We are the voice and hopefully one of these days it all comes to an end.”

Currently, a Democrat-backed bill is making its way through the Colorado State Legislature that aims to improve the state’s investigations into missing persons. It passed on second reading in the state Senate March 1.

Maryboy has participated in prayer runs in California, but she believes this is the first time it has been done in the Four Corners area.

Maryboy is also part of an organization called Look For me, which is dedicated to finding Missing and Murdured Indigenous Peoples and to promoting self protection, empowerment, and awareness through education. Donations can also be made to support their organization and the searches for MMIP. Maryboy told the Navajo Times, “I don’t think I’ll stop until all this missing stops.”

A relative of one of the runners went missing just a few weeks before the prayer run took place. The runner, Michael Vernon Shorty, said that some time after the search began, it was ruled a homicide case. Yet his loved one, Lance Dee Dennis, is still missing.

“I’ve been doing this for a while,” he said. “I guess when one of your family member go missing … I guess it made it more personal.”

Ella Mae Begay is an elder who has been missing for over eight months is from Red Mesa, Arizona, one of the towns that the Prayer Run went through.
Contact the Dilkon, Arizona, Police Department with any information on Dennis’ case.
Melanie Marie James has been missing for eight years. Her mother, who is still searching for her, also attended the Prayer Run.

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