FARMINGTON — In 32 years of criminal investigation on the Navajo Nation, Sammy Ahkeah looked into the murders of two victims of domestic violence, both women. The number of women who barely escaped death, however, Ahkeah cannot begin to count.

"These violent crimes that happen on the reservation, there's too many," said Ahkeah.

Ahkeah, now retired, was one of the dozen or so community members who marched Wednesday in Shiprock to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence on the reservation.

Participants, including District 4 state representative candidate Sharon Clahchischilliage and Shiprock Chapter presidential candidate Duane "Chili" Yazzie, walked from City Market in Shiprock to the nearby chapter house.

The march has been taking place for more than a decade, most every year on the last day of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, or the first of November.

"Everyone is aware (domestic violence) is there, but there's no vocal protest against it because it's in everybody's family," said Clahchischilliage.

The group held signs reading "stop the abuse" and "enough is enough," but their most important message was that the community is there for those at risk, said Elarina Nakai, a community involvement specialist with the Family Violence Prevention Services Program.

The program, under the Navajo Nation's Social Services Department, helps to remove victims of domestic violence from their homes on the reservation and place them in safe environments, whether at a shelter or with family or friends.


"There's a lot of unreported cases, and sometimes they'll report it, but we can't find the home," Nakai said, adding that she's been bothered lately by the repeated report of a woman living in Red Mesa who has been hospitalized multiple times after beatings.

Nakai and her coworkers have driven out to Red Mesa several times, unable to locate the victim's home because of the poorly marked rural roads.

The issue is not new. In fact, incident rates have risen slightly, Nakai said, because more awareness has empowered more victims and given them the know-how to report the crimes.

The Family Violence Prevention Services Program helps up to five victims a day, Nakai said, and the Home for Women and Children has seen an increase in whole families coming to the shelter.

"It's consistent ... and there's more men lately," said Clifford Jack, community educator for the Home for Women and Children.

Jack could not explain the increase in men and whole families, but he agreed it could be because of the outreach to women and men both, since either can be a victim of domestic violence.

Still, Native American women are most often the victims of domestic violence, as well as stalking, sexual assault and rape, according to the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women.

More than one-third of Native American women will report being raped in their lifetime, the Department of Justice's website said.

"They're all held hostage," said Jack, who hopes that the march will make the community aware of the few resources available.