Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Task Force of Colorado

Last summer, Rider Justice partnered with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) Task Force of Colorado to sponsor a ride during the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally in Durango, CO. This all came together because of a woman named Daisy Bluestar, a member of the Southern Ute tribe and a member-at-large on the Task Force.

She is also a biker.

“I ride a Heritage and I started off by riding dirt bikes with my friends and one of my little brothers,” says Daisy. “Sometimes we’d get pulled over in Ignacio and told to go put them away, but we’d be back in the alleys riding again. Riding is part of my family. I have four brothers and three sisters, and everyone rides except one. It’s part of our blood.”

So, when Daisy had a chance to combine two of her passions last Labor Day – fighting for missing and murdered indigenous people, and riding her motorcycle – she said, “Let’s give it a shot!”

As the person in charge of raising awareness for the Task Force, Daisy took the opportunity to introduce riders to indigenous culture, art, and food. (“I learned we will need a lot more food!” she quipped.) The event was so successful that her group Native Love,  has partnered with Rider Justice, The Southern Ute Tribe, and Durango Harley-Davidson for the 2024 event. (As well as other local community members.) Stay tuned for more information!

Daisy Bluestar, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Task Force

“When I was a kid, I thought it was normal to have missing and murdered relatives, and that terrible things were supposed to happen to women. I thought it would happen to me. I had a spot picked out in the cemetery. This is how deep and ongoing the trauma is.”

~Daisy Bluestar

The Real Story is About Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

Collage of missing indigenous people

On so many levels, the Four Corners event was a success and an eye-opener for everyone involved. We learned a tremendous amount from Daisy, starting with her own story.

“When I joined the Task Force, I was searching for my own relative,” says Daisy. “I was searching for justice. My mom’s sister, my aunt, was a cold case for 20 years. There had been no real effort to locate her. My grandparents would put up flyers and they would be taken down.”

Eventually, Daisy’s grandparents would figure out who had murdered her aunt. He was already in prison and legal action was taken to keep him there. But, as Daisy will tell you, this is just one traumatic story in a long history of trauma for indigenous people.

“This all goes back to boarding school days,” she says, referencing the unimaginable policies that authorized removing indigenous children from their homes to place them in boarding schools, where they were forced to abandon their culture, language, and identities. “It has never been seen as a priority to keep our families together, or to help us find people or get justice.”

In 2022, Colorado passed Senate Bill 22-150, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Act. The law creates the office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Relatives within the Department of Public Safety, and appropriates nearly $500,000 for implementation. The MMIR Task Force of Colorado is part of this initiative.

Daisy is an unpaid volunteer whose task is to help raise awareness around the state about the unimaginable numbers of missing and murdered indigenous people. She also volunteers for searches when called upon, as well as training in Human Trafficking.

“This is heavy work. We are all volunteers and we understand what we’re getting into, but it can be devastating,” she admits. “One of the first searches I was on, we found the woman and she had been murdered. We had notified law enforcement and they said she was probably just out partying, which is a normal thing they say. This is the hardest work.”

“Usually, we get our first phone call from family members who have tried working with law enforcement,” says Daisy. “When they don’t get help, they come to us.”

When it comes to searches, Daisy says the Task Force’s number one goal is to take weight off families and provide support in their search.

“Usually, we get our first phone call from family members who have tried working with law enforcement,” says Daisy. “When they don’t get help, they come to us.”

The Task Force has volunteers across the state and they immediately reach out to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. They also create and post flyers near where the family thinks the missing person might be located. They call any known friends or relatives of the missing person.

“We try everything possible before we initiate a search,” says Daisy. “If we have to start looking, we try to do it together as group, but sometimes we go out on our own. My first search I was on my own from the Taskforce, and initiated a local community search crew.”

Daisy says the Task Force receives calls on average about twice a week for help locating missing persons.

“If we have good law enforcement support, they take over. If we don’t have support from law enforcement, we begin. We know which cities will help and which ones probably won’t.”

Often, Daisy says, there is confusion about who has jurisdiction over a case.

For example, she explains, “We had a tribal member missing in Denver and law enforcement would not touch it because they said he was Southern Ute. But the Southern Ute reservation said they couldn’t touch it because he was a Denver resident.”

If the calls and flyers don’t lead to the missing person, Daisy says they organize a search, which happens about once a month.

Daisy Bluestar riding her motorcycle at the 2023 MMIR ride at Four Corners Motorcycle Rally

Daisy Bluestar riding her motorcycle at the 2023 MMIR ride at Four Corners Motorcycle Rally.

This is Not a New Problem

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, American Indian and Alaska Native women had the second-highest rates of death by homicide in the U.S.

“When I was a kid, I thought it was normal to have missing and murdered relatives, and that terrible things were supposed to happen to women. I thought it would happen to me. I had a spot picked out in the cemetery. This is how deep and ongoing the trauma is.”

In her work to raise awareness, Daisy says she is constantly shocked by other peoples’ shock.

“What is normal to us is not normal out in the world. How is it so normal for us and so shocking to others?”

So, Daisy says she uses her passion to stay focused on a cause that breaks her heart every day.

“In my heart the trauma is there… but it gives me strength. I’ve seen it, walked in it. So, when I go out to do awareness, it makes me reflect on what I’m doing it for. Indigenous families lose members every day. So I remind myself that, if we do this right, we can succeed.”

For More Information on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives

If you would like to learn more about the MMIR Task Force, or the plight of missing indigenous people in Colorado, check out the resources below. And watch this website for information about the Rider Justice MMIR ride over Labor Day weekend 2024.