Fairbanks Native Association holds remembrance rally for missing and murdered indigenous people

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 5:08 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks Native Association (FNA) held a rally on Friday, December 10th to remember missing and murdered indigenous people in Alaska.

According to Shirley Lee, Strategic Development/Justice Director for the Fairbanks Native Association, this was the first one several upcoming rallies.

“The purpose is very simple, it’s to keep these cases in the public’s eye,” Lee explained. “We haven’t forgotten, we know there’s people out there that know something about a lot of these cases, and we’re not forgetting.”

Another goal of FNA is to increase communication and relations between law enforcement and community members, especially in regards to ongoing cases.

“What we’re trying to do is have improved dialogue between law enforcement and the family members of the missing,” Lee elaborated, “and we’ll be facilitating meetings as well to try to help that open communication. We know that keeping these cases in the public awareness, and reminding people that we’re following, we’re tracking these cases, that’s always a good thing.”

Fairbanks Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, and the District Attorneys office were in attendance at the rally to speak on the building of relations between them and the community as well.

“We’ve started interviews going back to 2020 with the Bureau of Indian Affairs down in Anchorage,” Richard Sweet, Deputy Chief of the Fairbanks Police Department explained. “They have a taskforce, the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons projects, and so we’ve been working pretty consistently with all of the agencies - Coast Guard, FBI, state and local, Fairbanks police department, Tribal Law Enforcement, and District Attorneys and City Attorneys. We’ve been a part of this.

Sweet continued, “The one piece we needed to kind of invigorate, and really give it to the Fairbanks Native Association to take the lead on it, is to look for the funding and the structure to develop that relationship between law enforcement and then the local community.”

Law enforcement membersvstressed the continued importance of information submitted by the community to assist in the solving of cases.

“We want that one small piece - as much information as the person’s willing to give is as important,” Sweet remarked. “The context of the information, where you heard it from, how long ago was it. One of the challenges that we have to overcome is time. Time is our enemy really when you think about it. As soon as somebody goes missing, we want to know right away if possible. Even if you just think that a person might be missing, it’s OK. It’s OK to report, we’ll take it. Then if they walk back in... that’s the happiest ending is that the person walks back home on their own.”

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