On July 14, two young women from our community, Anna and Claudia Snyder, died when they fell into a canal behind Bluewater Lagoon and drowned. This was a tragedy for the entire community. The loss of such vibrant young people is always a tragedy.
The incident occurred on land under the jurisdiction of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Sadly, the Tribes lived up to their reputation for not putting out information.
I asked for information about this incident from the Tribes, and I got nowhere until Friday afternoon. Apparently, they weren’t even telling their public relations person anything about this. I was left to glean what I could from my contacts on social media, and, not surprisingly, some of that information was inaccurate.
This was a situation that was calling for some sort of official statement the day it happened. People were upset, and rumors were flying everywhere. If nothing else, an official statement would’ve helped put the record straight. Simply saying something like an incident is “under investigation” would be better than allowing rumors, suspicions and misinformation to grow and fester.
The one thing I hear again and again from Tribal members is the Tribal government does not do a good job of keeping their members informed as to what’s going on. This is particularly true of crimes on the reservation.
Do you recall the case of Mickey Roy Anderson? A Tribal member, he was sentenced to life in prison in June after he shot and killed a woman who had purchased drugs from another dealer. At the Pioneer, we heard nothing of the circumstances of this case until he was sentenced, which was five years after the crime occurred. We only found out about it because the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent us a press release.
Here’s what happened one time when there was a shooting on the reservation. People were asking me about it, so I tried to get information about it.
I called the CRIT Police. They told me to call Bureau of Indian Affairs. I called BIA. They said call the BIA in Phoenix. I called the BIA in Phoenix. They said call the FBI. I called the FBI. They said to call the FBI office in Lake Havasu City. Guess who the FBI office in Lake Havasu City told me to call? That’s right! They said call the CRIT PD.
Like the line from an old song, “I got Mr. Black and I got Mr. Brown, and then I got the runaround.”
The fact is, failing to put out information regarding incidents on the reservation is a major contributor to distrust in Tribal government. When rumors, suspicions and misinformation are allowed to run free without responses, it contributes to the feeling the Tribes are hiding things from their members. This does no one any good.
I am not criticizing Tribal police officers here. They have a tough job to do, and, from what I hear, they do it well. I am, however, criticizing the Tribal leadership and administration which seems to not want to put out any information regarding incidents on the reservation. They are not serving their members well.
It’s not just incidents either. A while back, local service and law enforcement agencies were upset because CRIT appeared to have a “catch and release” policy towards juvenile offenders. There was no response from the Tribes until Dan Eddy, who was then the Tribal Chairman, spoke to a Congressional committee and said CRIT had to close down their juvenile detention facility.
How difficult would it have been for Eddy to go to, say, the Parker Town Council or the La Paz County Board of Supervisors and tell them what the problem was? He could’ve asked for their support in CRIT’s request for funding for a new juvenile facility.
Granted, the Tribes did a great job of getting information out after that water line break in front of La Paz Regional Hospital. They let everyone know what was going on, and what they needed to do.
I also should note the Tribes put out a lot of information about events on the Manataba Messenger Facebook page. If you’re looking for information on Tribal events and programs, that’s the place to go.
Even with all this, the Tribes need to do a much better job of keeping members and the community informed when incidents occur on the reservation. People won’t know how to respond to problems on the reservation if they don’t know what those problems are.
They owe it to everyone to be more open and put out information. That would do everyone a lot of good.