COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Public Safety has created a new online tool to help share information about indigenous persons who go missing or are murdered. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Dashboard shows when each incident happened, where it happened, what jurisdiction it falls under, the status of the case, and resources for people to contact.
According to the dashboard, indigenous people are at a disproportionate risk of experiencing violence, murder, or going missing. The goal of the online tool is to bring more public awareness to missing indigenous people.
The dashboard currently shows the Colorado Springs Police Department has three unsolved homicides and two missing person cases involving indigenous victims.
One indigenous woman in Colorado Springs, Kelly Tohannie, said she thinks it will be a good tool.
“Hopefully it can be a great resource for people. Just then it is not just throughout November, but the rest of the year, people would be able to take a look at that and be like ohh my gosh. Maybe then it could decrease cultural appropriation that some people have. I mean, there's a lot more that goes into being indigenous. You have the old teachings, you have your upbringing and you have your life now,” Tohannie said.
Tohannie said she is from Chicago and is Winnebago Ho-Chunk Chippewa.
“Big thing for me is because I am an urban native, I don't get to go back to the reservation like some that are already living there, so I don't get those traditional teachings like I like you would from your grandmother,” Tohannie said.
Tohannie has lived in many cities across the United States. She said there are not many resources for indigenous people in Colorado Springs.
“I know a lot of different people within the native indigenous community here in Colorado Springs and as far as being able to teach the kids, we don't really have those resources. I mean, we do the best that we can as urban natives here, but getting to the right places takes a long time,” Tohannie said.
Tohannie wishes there was an educational and resource center in El Paso County, like the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. She hopes the dashboard will bring more awareness and resources to the indigenous people community in Colorado Springs.
“In our culture, seeking help for our mental health issues,” Tohannie said. “A lot of the reservations don't have that support. A lot of people don't have one way to get that support. So if we can have it locally here, where you could talk to somebody that looks like you and knows where you came from or how your living situation was growing up or any of that, the more capable people are to get that help,” Tohannie said.
Tohannie missing indigenous people is a big issue that is not talked about enough.
“It hits close to home because it can happen to your family or your friends or anybody at any given time and it sucks because we don't get that justice. We don't get the answers, it's just missing and nothing happens and it stays there and it stays stagnant,” Tohannie said.
She said indigenous people are more vulnerable to violence.
“I had to worry about that for myself growing up. I am three years sober, I am surprised how many times it could have happened to me. I am lucky it didn't,” Tohannie said.
Tohannie said sometimes indigenous women go missing near the reservations, but there are other factors as well.
“A lot of the people that they target are vulnerable. It's people that have addictions, mental health issues, sometimes even just kids, it sucks,” Tohannie said.
She wants more justice for people missing indigenous people.
“There's still a person. They still deserve the justice that anybody else would get. What if it was your daughter, you would want that? Unfortunately for us, for our daughters and our nieces and our grandmas and our aunts, we don't get that justice. Hopefully, with this tool we can shed more light,” Tohannie said.
There are local organizations in Colorado Springs that assist indigenous people such as the Haseya Advocate Program.
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