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IHAWC MMIR Prayer & Healing Event

Updated: May 9

Transforming collective grief into strength, hope, and action.

As of 2023, only 1.5% of the population in the state of Utah is Native American/Alaskan Native. However, the Native American/Alaskan Native population makes up 5% of all murder victims within the state (Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 2023). In 2019, to address the disproportionate violence the Utah indigenous population faces, State Representative Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored a resolution making May 5 “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and LGBT+ Awareness Day,” which passed.

This has allowed Native American-led organizations, like Indigenous Health and Wellness Connections (IHAWC) bring further awareness to the historic traumas and current injustices of our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR).

IHAWC is a Utah based non-profit that serves Indigenous individuals and families by inspiring a balanced lifestyle. They provide community events, educational opportunities, and access to resources that promote and build strong communities through finding balance and harmony in physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental capacities.

On May 5, over 200 people representing different Tribal Nations from all over the state of Utah traveled to attend the IHAWC MMIR Prayer & Healing Event held at the Warm Springs Park in Salt Lake. This location was chosen by the IHAWC MMIR Event planning committee because of its culturally significant natural resources and the historic MMIR events that have happened within the park boundaries.

This line of work has allowed me to focus on my personal health journey in finding balance. This balance includes my connection with the land and healing my family’s generational traumas. Our planning committee decided on this location because it still holds medicine for our people. Our grandparents relied on the waters for healing; and today we are doing the same.” States Shelby Chapoose, IHAWC Executive Director.

[Warm Springs Park and North Gateway Park were once a ceremonial site for the Indigenous people of Utah before forced and violent displacement occurred.]

In the early morning of May 5th, Secadio Sanchez organized a run to carry prayers of our MMIR. The path of this run went through the Utah State Capitol grounds. This was intentional by Sanchez; so that his and the other runners' footsteps would serve as a plea for justice to elected officials. The run concluded at Warm Springs Park where Sanchez was asked to offer a few opening words regarding his run. Following Sanchez, Eileen Quintana, a local knowledge keeper and community elder, offered an opening prayer in both English and the Diné language.

Opening remarks from Chapoose were given regarding the purpose for the event. Following Chapoose, the event spiritual leader Henry Howell offered traditional prayers for relatives we've lost so that they may find their way home or start their journey into the next life. This prayer was offered in both English and in the Ute language. Following Howell, a memorial song was offered by a Ute drum group consisting of Daniel Cesspooch, Eagle Manning, Joey Kanip, and Philip Manning.

“It’s important that our people hear their language. We have relatives that rest within the land that haven’t heard their language or songs for a very long time.”-Chapoose.

[Language for images provided by IHAWC MMIR Event Planning Committee.]

After, education about MMIR and May 5th was provided to attendees by Nicoletta Brown and Teyanna Kaibetoney from Restoring Ancestral Winds, Inc (RAW).

[RAW is a Native American-led organization that is committed to providing culturally specific and accessible resources to our Native Communities.]

Before concluding the event, State Representative Angela Romero spoke to the importance of continuing to hold steadfast on these issues; and how by working together we can find justice for our people.

One last prayer was offered by Howell to give strength and guidance for attendees on their healing journey in the loss of their loved ones. This prayer was followed by an honor song from the drum group to offer the same.

“As an Indigenous community, we know this is an issue; and with gratitude, I thank those that are fighting to help bring our people home and keep us safe. You are not alone in this journey. Through community, we can find justice. Together we can keep each other safe; and together we can heal.” -Chapoose.

Supporting organizations of this event included:

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe: '100 Years of Silence' Project

Ah-Kuh Kw Seech

Special thank you to Ronnie Pessetto, Kristina Groves, DeShawn Ungergust, Tamra Borchardt Slayton, Representative Angela Romero, Nicoletta Brown, Teyanna Kaibetoney, Chelsey Nez, Tetona Longhair, Gordon Howell, Shaun Ketchum Jr., Sylvia Nibley, Hilary Jacobs, Beverly Cooper, Gavin Noyce, Meredith Lam, and all the volunteers that endured the weather with us as we sent our relatives on their journey and prayed for community strength.

To support healing events like these, please consider donating to IHAWC by visiting

If you or anyone you know is in need of help, resources are available.

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