Family searching for missing Navajo woman

A new movie is putting a spotlight on abused and missing Native American women from tribal communities.

PHOENIX - The mother of 26-year-old Katczinzki Ariel Begay, also known as "Kat", is pleading with the public to call authorities if they think they may have seen her.

"We’ve been all over the place looking for her, constantly," said Jacqueline Whitman, Kat’s mother. "I’m not giving up on her."

The woman has not been seen since July 3 in Oak Springs, Ariz. on the Navajo Nation. 

Whitman says her daughter was very close to the family, the oldest of six siblings, and always made a point to check in with family whenever she left home. 

"Basically, I’ve been all over the reservation looking for her," she said. "Right now I am in Page, Arizona looking for her."

The search for Begay has crisscrossed the Navajo Nation and into New Mexico, but with no luck. The family is working with the Navajo Nation Police Department to piece together clues that will hopefully lead to her safe return. 

Whitman is urging anyone with any information to contact authorities. 

Begay's story is tragically common in Native American communities across the country, but it's unclear exactly how many Indigenous women are missing. 

The U.S. Department of Justice has statistics recording the instances of violent crimes and abuse committed against Native women, but very little cohesive data exists for the numbers of those who are reported missing. 

The issue is brought to the big screen in the film, Wind River, starring actor Jeremy Renner. 

Renner portrays a wildlife officer who teams up with an FBI agent to help investigate the murder of a Native American woman on the Wind River Reservation. 

The film explores the challenges posed by jurisdiction on tribal lands: Who ultimately leads investigations into these types of cases? Tribal police, state law enforcement or the federal authorities? 

It also takes a look at the lack of law enforcement resources, the the challenges of reservation life and violence committed by both Native and non-Native perpetrators.

"Those are things that are difficult to talk about and because there’s not a lot of awareness to it," Renner told 12 News. "It’s important. There’s an important weight to this story."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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