Navajo Nation Missing Persons
The Brief But Spectacular team recently brought attention to the volume of sexual assault cases in the Navajo Nation. Now, Meskee Yanabah Yatsayte, leader of an organization that looks for missing persons from the Navajo community, explains this silent epidemic.
William Brangham: Earlier this month, our Brief But Spectacular team highlighted the need to raise awareness of sexual assault cases on the Navajo Nation.
Tonight, Meskee Yanabah Yatsayte tells us about another silent epidemic in the Navajo community. She leads an organization that aims to provide a voice for those who don't have one.
Meskee Yanabah Yatsayte: Once a person goes missing, I always tell the families, be aware that you become the advocate. You also become the investigator.
Nobody knows what is going on, on our reservation, not just the Navajo Reservation, but nationwide. These cases are not taken seriously. They don't hit headline news. We ask, where — where are these cases going? And we are told that they are being looked at. But are they?
When I first started this, I realized that our people didn't have a place to go to report our missing people. I decided to create a booklet. This includes all of our updated missing persons from back from 1956. A lot of them do get found, but there are some that's been in these booklets ever since I have made them.
The goals of the group is spreading awareness and helping the families get their voices heard, because this is a silent epidemic. And trying to get people to listen to our voices and hear our cries is almost near impossible to do.
The case that really meant a lot to me was Katczinzki Ariel Begay.
We did marches. We did awareness stands. And we were going to do another awareness event for her. And that week is when we found out that they had found the remains of Ariel.
Ariel was murdered. Even after her murder, her mom took it to the next level to find justice for Ariel. And, just recently, she just passed. So, we will continue to seek justice for Ariel, because we know that was her mom Jacqueline's wish.
I have been a target of threats. So have the other four of our advocates. But these are the things that we have to face. I always tell the people that want to help and become a volunteer advocate, this is something that you have to be comfortable with.
I have been scared for most of my life, because I was told not to speak. But now I have the voice, and I'm not scared anymore. I'm not scared to speak. And I will do this for the people that are not able to speak now.
My name is Meskee Yanabah Yatsayte, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on finding our missing relatives.
William Brangham: You can learn more about Meskee's work on the Navajo Nation's Missing Persons updates page on Facebook.
And you can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.