Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, seated, signs a contract on December 11, 2017, to purchase a mass notification software to implement an emergency alert system on the reservation. Standing, from left: Navajo Department of Emergency Management Director Harland Cleveland, Vice President Jonathan Nez, Chief of Police Phillip Francisco and Navajo Division of Public Safety Director Jesse Delmar. Photo: Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President

Navajo Nation signs contract to implement AMBER Alert system on reservation

The Navajo Nation is finally close to implementing an AMBER Alert system on the reservation.

The tribe has already taken steps to inform citizens in the event of child abductions and other emergencies. The last piece was a contract, which President Russell Begaye signed on Monday, to purchase the mass notification software necessary to send out the alerts.

With the contract finalized, tribal officials hope to have the AMBER Alert system in place by the end of the year, The Associated Press reported.

“We always pray that we will never have another abduction, but we need this in place so that the whole Nation can be alert and help make sure that a child is recovered safely and quickly,” Begaye said in a press release. “I appreciate the work of everyone that made this possible. This is will make life safer here on the Navajo Nation.”

Key leaders on the Navajo Nation Council, the tribe's legislative body, applauded the move, though some questioned why it took so long. The kidnapping and murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike in May 2016 spurred calls to develop an alert system.

“I commend the efforts of Gary Mike and Pamela Foster, the parents of Ashlynne, for being the strong voices at the forefront to push for the implementation of the AMBER Alert system on the Navajo Nation. Their advocacy has been a critical resource in providing safety to our Navajo children,” Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who chairs the council's Sexual Assault Prevention Subcommittee, said in a press release.

The council allocated $250,000 to develop an AMBER Alert system, KRQE reported.

The Navajo Nation, like other tribes, is not eligible for AMBER Alert grants from the federal government. In the wake of Ashlynne's murder, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced S.772, the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, to ensure such funds can go to tribes.

The Senate passed the bill on November 30. It awaits action in the House.

Ashlynne and her brother were abducted on the New Mexico portion of the reservation on May 4, 2016. Her brother was later released unharmed. Ashlynne was later found dead in the Shiprock area.

Tom Begaye, Jr., a Navajo citizen, admitted he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Ashlynne. He has been sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Ashlynne's father, Gary Mike, is suing the tribe and various tribal officials in connection with her death, The Navajo Times reported. He is accusing them of negligence, the paper said.

Read More on the Story:
A year after girl killed, Navajo Nation to get alert system (The Associated Press December 13, 2017)
Navajo Nation implements emergency notification system, honors Ashlynne Mike (KRQE December 13, 2017)
Murder victim’s father sues tribe for negligence (The Navajo Times December 14, 2017)

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