A year after girl killed, Navajo Nation to get alert system

A year after girl killed, Navajo Nation to get alert system. (AP Photo)

More than a year after a Native American girl was killed and her tribe was criticized for not having an alert system in place when children go missing, the Navajo Nation has signed a contract to purchase the software it needed to get the notification system running by the end of this month.

The tribe, whose reservation is the largest in the U.S. and spans three western states, came under fierce criticism in 2016 after 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike was reported missing. She never made it home from her school bus stop and was found dead the next day, killed by a stranger who sexually assaulted her and struck her twice in the head with a crowbar.

An Amber Alert that would have sent information about her via cellphone messages and information to the media did not go out until the day she was found. The case raised questions about gaps in communication and coordination between tribal and local law enforcement.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said Wednesday that the new notification system will help make life safer on the vast reservation.

“We always pray that we will never have another abduction, but we need this in place so that the whole nation can be alert and help make sure that a child is recovered safely and quickly,” he said in a statement.

This May 6, 2016 file photo shows a portrait of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike, who was abducted and murdered in 2016. (AP Photo)

The tribe has relied on New Mexico, Arizona and Utah to activate Amber Alerts. Before an alert is issued, officers must go through a list of requirements to establish a case. If they meet the criteria, they can start the process of asking the states to issue an Amber Alert.

That procedure was used during Ashlynne’s abduction. Ashlynne’s father, Gary Mike, has sued the tribe, claiming it failed to send the alert about his daughter in a timely manner.

Prosecutors have said Ashlynne and her younger brother were lured into a van after the pair got off the bus and started walking home. The boy was left in the desert and later found his way to a highway, where he was picked up and authorities were notified.

The man convicted of the crime — Tom Begaye, no relation to Russell Begaye — was sentenced in October to life in prison.

Tom Begaye of Waterflow, N.M., was arrested in connection with 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike’s disappearance and death via AP

After the abduction, Navajo officials began working on getting federal approvals and training for an alert system. It then took several months to acquire funding to purchase the software.

Once the new system is installed, it will be managed by the Navajo Department of Emergency Management.

The tribe will be able to push alerts over radio, television and text messaging to 11 counties within the reservation’s borders.

Ashlynne’s case drew the attention of elected officials, including U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who sponsored legislation to expand the Amber Alert system in Native American communities across the nation.

McCain has called the case devastating, saying that FBI data shows more than 7,500 Native American children have been listed as missing in the U.S.

The measure is pending in the House after getting Senate approval two weeks ago. It has the bipartisan support of lawmakers from Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota.

“This is part of a broader effort to raise awareness and bring better systems of justice to Indian Country and to give law enforcement agencies at all levels the tools they need to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota and a co-sponsor of the bill.

 Associated Press



McCain Chased Off Reservation By Pissed-Off Navajo Activists (VIDEO)


Reverb Press

In a stunning action that was long overdue, a group of native Navajo Americans chased Senator John McCain out of the Navajo Nation capital of Window Rock — making it perfectly clear he was unwelcome in the first place.

McCain was visiting the Nation in commemoration of Navajo Code Talker’s day, and perhaps for a moment thought he would get by listening to polite pleas from Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice-President Jonathan Nez to back a Congressional appropriation to fund the construction of a Navajo Code Talkers Museum. According to a report from Native News Online.Net, however, the Nation’s leaders chose the moment to focus on the EPA tragedy unfolding via the Gold King Mine spill into the Animas and San Juan Rivers.

Vice President Nez said the Navajo people naturally have a distrust of the government and noted the agency never formally apologized to the Navajo Nation for contaminating the tribal water source known as the “lifeline of the Navajo people.”

“This is just one mine out of hundreds and there’s no Superfund designation,” Vice President Nez said. “Right now, we don’t trust the U.S. EPA’s data and their collection.

Rather than responding at the formal event, McCain and the Navajo Nation leadership, both Executive and Legislative branches, as reported by Dusty’s Navajo Political Sphere, attempted to sneak off to the Navajo Nation Museum for a “secret meeting“:

“About 60 protesters and or more ran John McCain out of Window Rock today. Code Talker day was celebrated today and in attendance were McCain, NN Executive Branch and NN Legislative Branch. The whole group left to attend a secret meeting with John McCain at the NN Museum. The group was met with protesters who made it clear that giving our water rights away will not happen under our watch. The meeting, I am told, did not happen. Delegates, McCain and others went out the side door.

“There were about 50 NN Police, as well as County Police. Protesters took off in cars and followed McCain to the airport. The bridge to the airport was closed off.

“Bye John McCain! There are a lot of things on the Navajo Nation that our groups large and small are going to tackle. We cannot trust our Government, so we will make things right, ourselves.”

The Navajo mistrust of “Government,” especially McCain, is appropriate. Despite coming out recently in support of preventing a July “disposal” round-up of wild mustangs from the Tonto National Forest, (perhaps due to the loud chorus of outrage which emanated from horse-lovers), McCain demonstrated his truly greedy and inconsiderate nature when it came to native concerns by introducing an 11th hour amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act ceding sacred Apache land, Oak Flat, to a foreign mining corporation.

McCain got his first taste of active Navajo displeasure during a photo-op following the official Code Talker Day event with Adriano Tsinigine. Observe this priceless pic, as posted to protect Oak Flat activist organization Apache Stronghold:

When the senator saw the protest sign, he ordered Mr. Tsinigine to “Get out of here, now!” The irony is blissful when viewed in retrospect, for McCain was met at the museum by a vocal crowd of outraged Navajos who weren’t about to let him quietly convene another closed-door meeting to bargain with the rights of their people. Protesters gained access to the museum and, though they were immediately subdued by police, by all appearances prevented McCain’s meeting from happening. Watch him run from the truth in this terrific video captured at the scene:


Navajo Nation On Toxic Spill In Rivers: ‘Our Soul Is Hurting’


Kalyn Green of Durango, Colo. stands on the edge of the Animas River, Aug. 6, 2015.

By Avianne Tan

Navajo Nation Mourning, Pleading for Help After Toxic Mine Spill Contaminates Rivers

The Navajo Nation is mourning and pleading for help as clean storage water is depleting, after toxic spill from a mine has contaminated water flowing down the Animas River in Colorado into the San Juan River through Utah and New Mexico.

The spill happened Friday when a team of Environmental Protection Agency workers accidentally released 3 million gallons of wastewater containing heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, from the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado, the agency said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health said Tuesday evening that the concentration of contaminants “continues to decrease” and the “department does not anticipate adverse health effects from incidental or limited exposure to metals detected in the water.

Though EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said at a news conference today that the agency’s slow response was out of caution, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the slow response is frustrating the Navajo people, who are “weeping every day” and in “dire need of clean water,” not only for drinking, but also to sustain their organic farms and ranches.

“Our soul is hurting,” Begaye told ABC News today. “I meet people daily that weep when they see me, asking me, ‘How do I know the water will be safe?’ The Animas River and the San Juan rivers are our lifelines. Water is sacred to us. The spirit of our people is being impacted.”

PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

He explained that “basic drinking water” is becoming scarce as clean storage water is depleting more rapidly than expected.

“Bottled water is becoming scarce, and my people want to know what we can drink after the clean supply runs out,” Begaye said. “We’re hauling water from wells outside the disaster area and using our own Navajo Nation funds to run these trunks back and forth. We desperately need help from outside to get good quality, safe drinking water.”

PHOTO: People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill.

Additionally, farmers and ranchers will be losing thousands of dollars in revenue if they can’t find a way to irrigate their crops and provide drinking water to their cattle and livestock, Begaye said.

“We are in the middle of farming season, which is only four to five months of the whole year, and farmers are baking me to help them save their crops, many of which are not fully ripe yet,” he said. “The revenue from these crops is what our farmers need to live off for the rest of the year, so without irrigation water, they are doomed.

“Our ranchers, which have cattle, sheep, horses, goats and different livestock also graze and drink along the river,” Begaye added. “But right now, all the cattle are penned up, and these ranchers have to haul their water in, which they’re not prepared to do.”

PHOTO: The Animas River flows through the center of Durango, Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

Begaye explained that the Navajo are well known for their organic crops and meat, but now with the river contamination, farmers and ranchers are scared they can’t guarantee their consumers that their produce and products are going to be 100 percent organic.

Navajo tourism is also being affected because business owners of resorts and boating companies by the rivers now cannot fully operate until the water is cleared, the Navajo president added.

Begaye said the EPA sent two personnel — one who could help with any health issues and another who could help with water testing — but he said the Navajo Nation has yet to receive help from the EPA to get drinking water and more specific answers about what’s exactly in the orange-yellow waters now flowing in their sacred rivers.

PHOTO: Officials from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and a retired aquatic biologist check on cages with Rainbow trout fingerlings on Friday Aug. 7, 2015, on the Animas River in Durango, Colo.

Administrator McCarthy said today she understands the “frustration” but that the EPA has “researchers and scientists working around the clock” and is hustling to provide “alternative water supplies.”

She added there have not been any reported cases of “anyone’s health being compromised” and that the “EPA is taking full responsibility to ensure that the spill is cleaned up.”

McCarthy also mentioned that she expected there to be lawsuits against the EPA, and Begaye said in a news release Sunday that he planned to take legal action against the agency.

PHOTO: As the Animas River begins to recede it reveals a sludge left behind by the Gold King Mine spillage just north of Durango Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

“To recover from this from this will take a while,” Begaye told ABC News. “For our river to recover, it may take decades. But our people have faced disaster before, and as a nation, we’ll work together and do the best we can. As a nation of prayer, we are asking for prayers for our people right now, and I’d also just like to thank anyone who has reached out to us to volunteer help.”

ABC News, Posted: Aug 11, 2015

Source: http://abcn.ws/1TsHO0i