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Colorado Starts Missing Indigenous Person Alert System

After community members searched for Wanbli Vigil in knee-deep snow and brush in Denver, authorities activated a statewide alert system on Tuesday to help find the missing 27-year-old Lakota man. Vigil’s disappearance is the first case to activate Colorado’s new Missing Indigenous Person Alert (MIPA). The system was launched last week to address the state’s missing Indigenous people crisis. Colorado is among a handful of states that have created similar alert systems in the past year amid the nationwide crisis of unsolved Indigenous missing and murder cases, CNN reports. “It’s needed, because we … as Indigenous people have been silenced too long, and abused too long and not taken seriously,” said Daisy Bluestar, a Southern Ute advocate and member of the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Taskforce of Colorado, a grassroots group that lobbied for the new alert system.

Vigil was last seen on December 29 as he left an apartment building in Denver and was reported missing on New Year’s Day, said his aunt, Jennifer Black Elk. He was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket with white stripes, according to the alert issued by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Black Elk said Vigil walked out of their apartment after sharing “personal issues” and left the door cracked. She thought Vigil went to pray because he was seen carrying a chanunpa, a ceremonial pipe. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation launched the Missing Indigenous Person Alert system on December 30. Its creation is the result of legislation passed last year to expand the investigation of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

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