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2023 Revisited: MMIWR Task Force Quietly Disbanded & Environmental Rights of NM Rivers

This week on New Mexico in Focus, we revisit some past stories. At the turn of the 20th century, Rebecca Clarren’s ancestors fled antisemitism in Russia to start new lives in America, where they became homesteaders on lands the U.S. government stole from the Lakota people. In her new book, “The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance,” Clarren offers an intimate look at how her family benefitted from that stolen land and explores acts of reconciliation and repatriation that are embedded in family and culture. 

The 1970s were a time of change in New Mexico’s newsrooms. The decade was so full of turmoil and innovation that the Albuquerque Museum is highlighting it in its latest temporary exhibit, “News for the People.” Producer Antonio Sanchez and photojournalist Robert McDermott take you on a trip through the exhibit, speaking with a curator about some of the trailblazers and asking a retired reporter how journalism has changed since she started at the Albuquerque Journal nearly 50 years ago. 

We discuss Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to quietly shut down the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force. In October, reporter Bella Davis (Yurok) broke that story at New Mexico In Depth. We revisit a segment from November where she sits down in our studio with Darlene Gomez, a member of the disbanded task force, and Vangie Randall-Shorty (Diné), a mother whose son was murdered. Three years after his death, she’s still waiting for answers from investigators. 

Our Land Senior Producer Laura Paskus explores the legalities of water rights along New Mexico’s many rivers, including the Rio Grande. She speaks with Paul Tashjian, director of freshwater conservation for Audubon Southwest about the current system used to assign water rights, and the reality that the river itself has no rights to the water that maintains its ecosystem.   

Host: Laura Paskus

The Cost of Free Land 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guest: Rebecca Clarren, author, “The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance” 

“News for the People: Local Journalism in the 1970s” 
Producer: Antonio Sanchez 
Photojournalist: Robert McDermott 
Guests: Jonathan Wright, history curatorial assistant, Albuquerque Museum 
Denise Tessier, retired journalist 

State Quietly Disbands MMIWR Task Force 
Correspondent: Bella Davis (Yurok) 
Guests: Vangie Randall-Shorty (Diné), mother of Zachariah Juwaun Shorty 
Darlene Gomez, attorney, former member of the New Mexico MMIWR Task Force 

Without Rights, NM’s Rivers Can Come Up Empty 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guest: Paul Tashjian, Audubon Southwest, Director of Freshwater Conservation