Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Rally focuses on partnerships finding solutions

Members of the community speak about relationships and solutions to ending the crises facing Alaska Natives.
A missing and murdered indigenous persons rally gathered to discuss developments on solving the crisis.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 8:46 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Strength in Unity rally took place at the David Salmon Tribal Hall on Thursday, Oct. 13. It was a missing and murdered indigenous persons rally that focused on developing partnerships between law enforcement and Alaska Native leadership. The two groups discussed their cooperative work and the solutions they are working on which they hope will decrease the high number of missing and murdered indigenous people.

There were multiple speakers at the rally which was more formal than previous rallies. Among those that took a turn at the microphone were Steve Ginnis - the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association, Brian Ridley - the Chief and Chairman of Tanana Chiefs Conference, David Pruhs - the mayor elect for the city of Fairbanks, and leadership for both the Fairbanks Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers.

Song and prayer marked the start of the rally, soon followed by speeches from leaders in the Alaska Native community. Ginnis was one of the first to speak, talking about the relationship between leadership for the local Alaska Native Community and law enforcement. “We’re united in working together to address this,” Ginnis said. He also said the government officials in attendance are “not just support.”

When Ridley came up to speak, he talked about the coordination of tribal and law enforcement efforts thanks to the Savannah Act, and the independent actions of the State of Alaska and tribal organizations in Alaska. “Some of the initiatives that our group will be working towards in the next year are developing protocols and educational resources to utilize if a family member goes missing,” Ridley said.

There were also discussions focusing on the progress being made through the coordinated work of these partnered organizations. Mayor-elect Pruhs spoke about the expansion of the city’s website. “We have a city website with open unsolved homicide cases on it. By Jan. 1st, 2023, we’ll also have an area for missing persons.” Pruhs said that he’ll make sure “every missing indigenous person is on it.”

From law enforcement, Capt. Eric Spitzer, the region commander for the Alaska State Troopers also spoke about the progress being made and some of the changes that have already been implemented. “I put in our standing operating procedures that as soon as someone goes missing and someone calls you to report a missing person, you go in and get that missing person questionnaire,” Spitzer said.

However not all in attendance felt that the progress was noticeable or that the law enforcement was doing enough. Janelle Williams was welcomed to the lectern, and during her time on stage she spoke about her personal experience with missing indigenous people in Fairbanks. During one story, she talked about a follow-up with a man who had been removed from her property. “They went to booking, there was no record of that guy being picked up on my property. Couldn’t find him. Just disappeared,” she said.

All who spoke did agree however that the best way for the community to battle this issue was to report anything they see that they think might be related to a missing or murdered person’s case. Ginnis also spoke on the importance of continuing the rallies because it continues to keep the issue in the eye of the public. “There really is strength in unity,” he said.

To report a tip, call (907) 451-5100 or go to the State Trooper webpage where you can submit an anonymous tip: https://dps.alaska.gov/AST/Tips