By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service (ANS)
ALBUQUERUQUE, NEW MEXICO (May 8, 2016) — New Mexican’s were horrified with the news that eleven-year-old Ashlynne Mike was kidnapped, assaulted, and killed near a sacred site, Shiprock, on the Navajo Nation in Northern New Mexico. The incident sent shock waves around the region and country , with newscasts, vigils, and TV transmissions of her funeral being broadcast live.
I, like most residents of New Mexica, woke up early to an Amber Alert, and then followed the story on the news until Ashlynne’s body was found on a hill by Shiprock, meaning, “rock with wings” or “winged rock.” In Navajo cosmology, Shiprock refers to the great bird that brought the Navajo from the north to their present lands.
Later, I took part in a vigil at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center . It was a time to celebrate her life and to recognize the reality of assault on Native American women around the country.
Sponsored in part by the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women , the vigil was a somber and sobering reminder that Native women have a higher degree of domestic violence, sexual violence, and sexual trafficking than other women groups in the country.
The Coalition released the following story in relationship to the Ashlynne Mike murder:
“The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) joins the voices of Native communities, families and friends across New Mexico in expressing its outrage and sadness over the recent abduction and murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike of the Lower Fruitland area of the Navajo Nation.
“The Coalition is outraged at not only the alarming frequency and high rates of domestic and sexual violence committed against our Native children across New Mexico tribal communities, but the Coalition is saddened to hear of another tragic loss of one of our children and yet another act of violence, said Deleana OtherBull, CSVANW Executive Director.
“There has been an escalation of violence, particularly in some of the most rural parts of our tribal communities, places where we may have felt were historically safer from these kinds of tragic episodes like the abduction and death of one of our beautiful and brightest children, Ashlynne,” OtherBull said. “To keep our children safe, parents, guardians and extended family must be targeted for prevention education and outreach.”
It sent on to say, “Violence, including intentional injuries, homicides, and suicide, account for more than 75 percent of all deaths among Native American youth, according to the Center on Native American Youth. In New Mexico alone, 56% of sexual violence victims are children with the majority of these cases happening to children under the age of 12.
“These horrific acts of violence against our most vulnerable, our Native children, remind us of the enormous difficulties and challenges that our tribal communities face,” OtherBull said, adding that she agreed with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, who said in a recent news release that ‘We need to do everything we can to implement a system that will enable members of the Navajo Nation to more readily assist in looking for perpetrators, especially when an abduction has taken place.’
“In aiding tribal communities, the Coalition, a 20-year-old Albuquerque-based nonprofit, provides training, domestic and sexual violence case worker support, and technical assistance for tribes and law enforcement seeking help in working with tribes. CSVANW was recently in the area to aid the Shiprock Home for Women and Children, one of two domestic violence shelters that serve Navajo women and families on the entire Navajo Nation that closed recently, in fundraising.
“The Coalition also points to a new tribal database, the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program (AATTAP), www.tribaldatabase.org, launched last year that features information and resources in the areas of child protection, human trafficking, law enforcement, public safety and social services. The tribal database website offers direct access to the Tribal Database System designed for use by all federally-recognized tribes.
“CSVANW urges our communities to join us with your prayers, good thoughts and strength for Ashlynne’s family,” said OtherBull, who has been in contact with Ashlynn’s family in Eastern New Mexico and spoke directly to Ashlynne’s father. “We ask that you will stand with us as we continue to work to address violence against Native women and children and help us to provide this week for the family of Ashlynne Mike.”
“CSVANW will have a community gathering and awareness donation drive at 6:30-8 p.m. May 5 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s (IPCC) courtyard. CSVANW is asking for the community, both Native American and non-Native American, to join the organization in this sacred space to honor Ashlynn and bring awareness about the high levels of violence committed against Native children. Monetary donations, as well as the donation of goods, are being accepted. Items will be delivered directly to the Mike family on Friday, May 6.
“CSVANW is appreciative to our community partner, IPCC, for donating their time, space and efforts to this community gathering. Revenue from IPCC’s Patio Party on May 5 will also be donated to Ashlynne’s family.
“It’s important that we show strength in the face of tragedy – especially women, who are so often the backbone to our families and culture. By gathering together, we can support one another and move toward recovery,” said Monique Fragua (Jemez), IPCC Museum Director. “We are thankful for and truly appreciate Pueblo Harvest Café’s generous contributions.
The statement concluded with, “CSVANW also thanks the Navajo Nation law enforcement, leadership and community for its time and efforts to find Ashlynn. Additionally, CSVANW extends thanks to the FBI, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, the U.S. Marshall’s office, and the Farmington Police Department, all of whom assisted in the investigation.”
On this Mother’s Day, I would urge you to remember your mother — honor her, love her, and cherish the memories you have of her, the times shared in the ups and downs of life. But don’t forget to remember the mothers who’ve lost children. On this day, remember girls like Ashlynne Mike, who lost a mother, as did a mother lose a child.
Photo captions: 1) Ashlynne Mike. 2) Shiprock, New Mexico. 3) Ashlynne Mike vigil at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. 4) Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. 5) Candles burn at a makeshift memorial for Ashlynne Mike near where her body was found. 6) Brian Nixon with ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, taken during a visit Dan made to Albuquerque.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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