A federal grand jury has indicted a New Mexico man in the case of a missing elderly woman on the Navajo Nation.
As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, Ella Mae Begay remains missing after more than a year-and-a-half.
The two-count indictment alleges that 23-year-old Preston Henry Tolth assaulted Begay during a June 2021 carjacking in Sweetwater, Ariz., a community near Four Corners on the Navajo Nation.
Prosecutors say Tolth drove Begay’s Ford F-150 pickup truck across state lines and intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to her.
Tolth faces decades in prison if convicted.
The investigation by the FBI and Navajo Nation law enforcement is ongoing and the U.S. Justice Department says it’s part of a broader attempt to solve cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Begay’s family has aggressively sought answers in her disappearance.
In a social media post, an attorney representing them said the day of the indictment was bittersweet.
Last summer, Begay’s niece Seraphine Warren walked from the Navajo Nation to Washington D.C. to advocate for her aunt and other missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Winona LaDuke has resigned as executive director of the environmental group Honor The Earth.
The board of directors received and accepted her resignation this week.
The move comes after a Minnesota jury last week sided with a former employee.
Margaret Campbell had complained a co-worker sexually harassed her.
Campbell claimed Honor the Earth’s leaders failed to take her concerns seriously.
The Becker County jury awarded Campbell $750,000 in damages for sexual harassment and retaliation.
Honor The Earth released a statement on Facebook Wednesday from the new executive director Krystal Two Bulls.
In the statement, Two Bulls talks about moving Honor The Earth forward with the transition after LaDuke’s more than 30 years of leadership.
The statement does not mention the lawsuit, but Two Bulls says they’ve learned “real lessons” and have “deep” work to do around sexual harassment.
She goes on to say Honor The Earth is committed to listening, healing, and intentional work ahead.
In a Facebook post, LaDuke wrote that she failed former employee Molly Campbell for failing to respond to her reports of sexual harassment by a co-worker.
LaDuke says, prior to the trial, she had been working on a transition plan.
This story includes reporting from Minnesota Public Radio’s Kirsti Marohn and Dan Kraker.
Tribal leaders in California asked state lawmakers to help address the fentanyl crisis impacting their communities.
During a recent roundtable at the State Capitol in Sacramento, tribal leaders shared how fentanyl is devastating Native Americans across the state.
Chairman John Christman of the Viejas Band of Mission Indians, who’s been in tribal leadership for 16 years, has served as chairman for the last four.
He says fentanyl is plaguing his people and it’s like nothing he’s seen before.
“Part of the reasons we don’t have success is this new sort of chemical takes ahold of them and when you look in their eyes they can’t, it’s like they need a stepping program to get off of this to even get through to them at all.”
Chairwoman Angela Elliott Santos of the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation talked about how she’s lost close family members to fentanyl.
She says challenges include being in a rural area with lack of resources, law enforcement and services. Santos says what tribes need is full funding, which they don’t have to compete for in order to tackle the issue.
“Funding we can count on to end the cycles that have plagued us since we were stripped of our way of life. In these days of so much talk of equity and making up for the past, our tribes are still in the same position they’ve been in for decades – nowhere close to having the resources to truly help our people.”
Santos also stressed the need for collaboration especially for law enforcement and mental health crisis support.
The discussion was led by State Rep. James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla/D-CA) who says the roundtable was held for legislators to learn recommendations for a stable government-to-government solution.
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