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Only the Beginning: Arizona's MMIWG Study Committee (NEA Big Read Phoenix 2021)

Only the Beginning: Arizona's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Study Committee with April Ignacio, Jennifer Jermaine, Debbie Nez Manuel, Traci Morris

Date(s): Friday, March 19, 2021, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Phoenix MST / Pacific
Conversation, Panel, Q&A, Talk
Genre and Form(s): American Indian, Community, Human Rights, Indigenous, Social Justice
Cost: Free

About this Event

My father had insisted that they each take a statement from my mother because it wasn't clear where the crime had been committed—on state or tribal land—or who had committed it—an Indian or a non-Indian. I already knew, in a rudimentary way, that these questions would swirl around the facts. I already knew, too, that these questions would not change the facts. But they would inevitably change the way we sought justice.

From The Round House by Louise Erdrich (p. 12) 

Every year, thousands of Indigenous women and girls go missing, and are subject to physical abuse, sexual assault, and other forms of interpersonal violence at rates higher than any other ethnic or racial group. Yet even here, the data is plagued by deep errors in classification and tracking—according to some databases, 'Native American' doesn't even exist. And when a report is finally able to be made, a maze of jurisdictions make it difficult for organizations to collaborate, let alone find those who are missing. The Round House is just one story. With such a complicated and multifaceted problem, where do we begin?

On May 9, 2019, the Arizona legislature passed HB2570, creating a Study Committee on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), which would spend the next year gathering data, reviewing policies, and producing recommendations to take the first steps of bringing this crisis to an end.

In this panel, study committee members Representative Jennifer Jermaine, Debbie Nez Manuel, and April Ignacio will share updates and progress from their work with the HB2570 committee over the last year: defining the extent and scope of the crisis; situating MMIWG within centuries of genocide, violence, and colonial erasure; and outlining what's next.

Panelists will also be on hand to take questions from the audience. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Traci Morris of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University. This event will be live-streamed and recorded, and is open to the public and free.

Only the Beginning: Arizona's Study Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is Friday, March 19, 2021 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Phoenix MST / Pacific on Zoom.

Please note: as Phoenix does not observe daylight savings time, determining the correct time outside of Arizona can be somewhat confusing. Right now, Phoenix MST is currently equivalent to Pacific (not Mountain). To view the current time in Phoenix, Arizona, you can check the world time clock.

To learn more about the HB 2570 Study Committee, you can read an article from Arizona Public Media or view the final report. This event is open to the public and free.

Looking for more events? Talk about things that matter with Dr. Traci Morris on March 24, register for the keynote with Layli Long Soldier on March 26, or view the full schedule for the NEA Big Read today at

About the Author

April is Tohono O'odham and a mother to six (6). She's a history and religion buff, studied at the University of Arizona but is especially proud of her Associates Degree from the Tohono O'odham Community College. April is a community organizer, founder of Indivisible Tohono, serves as the Chair for the Arizona State Democratic Party Native American Caucus and sits on the Arizona State Study Committee for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls.

Photograph of Jennifer Jermaine

Jennifer Jermaine represents Legislative District 18 at the Arizona State Legislature. She currently serves on the Government Committee, Elections Reform Committee, and the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. She is also the Chair of the investigative committee for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Jennifer has spent years in the nonprofit sector and helping people start and succeed in small businesses.

Photograph of Debbie Nez Manuel

Debbie Nez-Manuel is a longtime community leader and activist. Ms. Nez-Manuel is a profoundly impactful advocate for people of color in urban, rural, and remote communities around Arizona. She has extensive experience and expertise in mobilizing citizens into deep and meaningful community engagement. Ms. Nez-Manuel grew up on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona and has lived in the Phoenix metro area for three decades. She has had a successful career with Casey Family Programs in their partnership with Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Ms.

Photograph of Traci Morris
Traci L Morris is is the director of the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) at Arizona State University and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

About NEA Big Read: Phoenix

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. This event is presented as part of the NEA Big Read: Phoenix, celebrating Indigenous literary arts and culture in the Valley with over 25 talks, workshops, performances, book clubs, art exhibits other virtual events inspired by The Round House by Louise Erdrich. NEA Big Read: Phoenix is presented by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University with additional support from Arizona Humanities, Phoenix Public Library, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Humanities Division at ASU, and over 40 authors, performers, and community organizations. Find events, meet our partners, and start reading today at

Support Indigenous Communities

The Phoenix Indian Center is the oldest American Indian non-profit organization of its kind in the United States, providing workforce development, cultural enrichment, and other vital services to Indigenous communities throughout the Valley for over 70 years. To support their work, visit their website at, click the donate button, enter an amount, and enter "NEA Big Read" in the description. Please consider making a gift to the Phoenix Indian Center today.

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