New Mexico mural focuses on missing Native American women

In this June 4, 2019 photo, an indigenous woman takes center stage in a mural by artist Sebastian "Vela" Velazquez, erected on the Cruces Creatives building wall in Las Cruces, N.M. The new mural in southern New Mexico seeks to honor missing and slain Native Americans amid a nationwide push to bring more attention to the issue. The #MMIW hashtag atop stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. (Sebastian "Vela" Velazquez/The Las Cruces Sun News via AP)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A new mural in southern New Mexico seeks to honor missing and slain Native Americans amid a nationwide push to bring more attention to the issue.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports artist Sebastian "Vela" Velazquez recently erected the mural in Las Cruces in conjunction with the city's eighth annual "Illegal" graffiti art show.

The work is part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the Cruces Creatives building. In the mural, a Native American woman stands in front with her fist raised. She's screaming and the words below say: "NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!"

"The news gets turned off and Facebook gets put down and turned off, and those issues kind of disappear, and everything that comes with it," Velazquez said. "Having that piece up there, and why we sponsored it, is because you can't really turn off a mural. It's there every day and every night."

Last month, federal lawmakers re-introduced legislation that calls for the Justice Department to review how law enforcement agencies respond to cases of missing and killed Native Americans.

The legislation is named Savanna's Act for 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose body was found in a North Dakota river in 2017.

The bill was unanimously approved in the U.S. Senate last year but died in the House.

Velazquez said the mural also honors missing indigenous Mexican women. "Art is medicine to people of color. I think aerosol art is a healing method, rather than a criminalizing method," he said.

Earlier this year, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to develop a task force to investigate the issue of missing and slain indigenous women in the state.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com