Elliot Polakoff, AZFamily.com

Phoenix event raises awareness surrounding violence towards Indigenous women

It's an issue that has so often been overlooked: Indigenous women who have gone missing or murdered without any explanation why.

Here in Arizona, the state has the third-highest number of missing or murdered women. Tonight at the Heard Museum, an event hosted by Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton tried to change that.

The evening started with a screening of the documentary 'Somebody's Daughter,' highlighting some of those stories of violence towards Indigenous women. Afterward, there was a panel discussion about what needed to be done moving forward.

"The scope of this issue is so vast," Somebody's Daughter creator Rain said. "And a lot of people just have no concept of that.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and his wife were at the White House Monday for the tribal nation's summit. For years tribal people, namely women, have gone missing without a trace.

Rain decided to share Indigenous families' stories of lost loved ones to help raise awareness and get lawmakers' attention.

"It's led to a lot of positive initiatives," Rain said. "Just recently, the President signed an executive order on November the 15th on this issue."

Recent federal legislation like Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act address Indigenous violence. But advocates say there's still a long way to go.

According to the Justice Department, four out of five Native women are affected by violence in their lifetimes.

"There are thousands of Native American missing women and girls," Congressman Greg Stanton said. "And nobody's looking for them."

Stanton hopes that events like this one will hit home for a state that has over 20 federally recognized Indigenous tribes.

"It will shock the conscience," Stanton said. "It will shock all of our consciences. It's unacceptable in the United States of America. We need to stand up for our fellow American citizens and say more needs to be done about this tragic situation."

Hopi tribe member and victim rights specialist Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya says that includes increased psychological resources to families whose loved ones never come back.

"Our closure is through our spiritual and mental well-being," Imus-Nahsonhoya said. "Sometimes, we don't have the physical piece of it."

In the meantime, she says continuing to have public conversations like this one about what Indigenous families are experiencing goes a long way.

"They're pleading for help; they're pleading for a response," Imus-Nahsonhoya said. "And that's my hope tonight that our participants will be able to truly understand that's the need for our families and our survivors."