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A Father’s Thoughts on His Daughter’s Future
~ Chase Voirin
Halfway up the mountains my father and I were trying
to decide which area to hunt next. It was the middle
of the afternoon, overcast, with an enshrouding gust
of wind typical of a spring day in the New Mexico forest.
We had recently returned to the truck along an old
logging road, resting after an early morning start to
the day. We were hunting turkeys on Mt. Taylor just outside of Grants, NM. I was a nine-year-old kid enjoying time with his father in the woods, but I will always remember the prominence of that day, something that had nothing to do with hunting.
A man and a couple women in a truck pulled up off the main dirt road that continued along around the mountain. They didn’t look like the hunting type as they were dressed casual, all wearing jackets to dull the chill of that day’s weather. I could tell they were a Native American family. Being Navajo and growing up in New Mexico made it easier for me to identify Indigenous people upon first site. However, most of the Natives I encountered on hunts on this mountain were usually participating in hunts themselves. But this situation was entirely different.
After their truck pulled up they calmly exited and asked us what we were hunting for. After we answered them we started a friendly chat and politely asked them what their purpose was for traveling around the mountain that day. I thought they were enjoying a weekend excursion, but there was a solemn presence about them. It wasn’t until they told us what their purpose was that I realized why. One of the ladies informed us they were searching for the body of their missing daughter. Being a child, I almost couldn’t believe my ears and nearly uttered out a question as to their meaning. But my father picked up on the news immediately, and replied with an apology for the heartache they had to go through, and then politely began asking questions inquiring as to the rest of the story. Their group consisted of the parents and one of the younger sisters of the missing woman that day.
One of the ladies divulged info that her daughter was last seen with a boyfriend just outside the town of Grants. The parents suspected they were coming from a bar or party and the boyfriend’s vehicle was last seen on the highway that led to the mountains late one night, but law enforcement had not been able to reach him for questioning. Their daughter had been missing for several days, and they had feared the worst outcome. After talking for about 15 minutes, the family was in surprisingly calm and decent spirits considering the purpose of their excursion, and we all wished each other the best upon parting ways. I spent the rest of the day with waves of thoughts developing in my head. And growing hope that perhaps my father and I would find some shred of evidence regarding their missing daughter that we could relay to the family and help in their investigation.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada is commonplace, and exact statistics and information of those cases are only recently being developed. Some examples include that in 2015 it was found that murder was the third leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaskan Native women1. And while Indigenous women only made up approximately 5% of the female population in Canada, they accounted for 25% of the nation’s murdered victims2. More specific spikes in violence against Native women have been associated with fossil fuel booms in states like North Dakota3. Efforts to address these alarming statistics are being developed through legislation. The Not Invisible Act was introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to Congress in April which would increase coordination and communication among law enforcement agencies to specifically address violent crimes against American Indian/Alaskan Native women4.
Fast-forward 21 years later in my life, and I’m about to have a daughter of my own. These types of statistics hit home even more than in the past, and I reflect on that childhood memory more now than ever. I realize now the only way to address these issues is to bring them to the forefront and improve record-keeping of incidences. Perhaps more information on missing and murdered Indigenous women will aid in future mitigation efforts. And while no father can keep their kids safe every waking second for their entire lives, it strikes deep in my heart the importance for a girl to have a father figure in her life. Someone to provide unconditional love and a responsible male figure, so in the future she’ll be able to better identify that same type of figure who will not cause her trouble.
As a Native American man I believe this fatherly role-model is more important than ever. I truly encourage and hope for my Indigenous brothers who have kids to strive to be accountable fathers for their kids, including their daughters. Because we can’t control our daughter’s lives and protect them in every waking second, but we can control the love that we give them and the accountability we teach them, providing a positive influence so they can set forth in the world as strong warriors, and not end up as another statistic. I say this in all respect and admiration for Indigenous fathers everywhere who love their daughters. And for the rest of my life I will support and advocate positive efforts to reduce violence again Indigenous women, as if it involved my own daughter.
1Urban Indian Health Institute. 2016. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls.
Available at http://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Missing-and-Murdered-Indigenous-Women-and-Girls-Report.pdf. Accessed on 10 June 2019.
2Arriagada, P. 2016. First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women. Women in Canada: A Gender-
based Statistical Report. Statistics Canada. Available at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14313-eng.htm. Accessed on 10 June 2019.
3Indigenous Environmental Network. 2018. Native Leaders Bring Attention to Impact of Fossil
Fuel Industry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Available at https://www.ienearth.org/native-leaders-bring-attention-to-impact-of-fossil-fuel-industry-on-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-and-girls/. Accessed on 10 June 2019.
4Folley, A. 2019. Bipartisan group proposes legislation to help tribal communities combat
violence against Native women. The Hill. Availabel at https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/437438-senate-bill-makes-government-give-tribal-communities-more-resources-to-combat. Accessed on 10 June 2019.