To recognize Indigenous Heritage Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the remarkable Diné journalist Chelsea Curtis, who has joined Arizona Luminaria to spearhead an Indigenous-led investigative and explanatory reporting initiative. This project features compelling news stories and a comprehensive database, and is backed by the International Women’s Media Foundation’s (IWMF) Fund for Indigenous Journalists: Reporting on Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, and Transgender People (MMIWG2T), which is supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
To further spotlight Chelsea’s work, we spoke with her about what motivates her reporting, what she looks forward to uncovering, and the intended impact and goals of her investigative endeavors:
IWMF: What are your plans for this project? What has progress looked like for you lately?
Chelsea: I am investigating public records from government agencies and talking with families to create a database that maps cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Transgender People in Arizona. I’ll also write in-depth profiles about some of the Indigenous people at the center of this issue. Lately, I’ve been following up with more than 70 records requests, drafting my first couple of profiles and scheduling future interviews.
IWMF: What are you most looking forward to shedding light on?
Chelsea: Data of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Transgender People in Arizona hasn’t been closely tracked or compiled on a large scale, making its true scope unknown. This injustice is mirrored across U.S. communities and Sovereign Tribal Nations. By collecting data as part of my project, I hope to help bridge this gap in information and create a pathway that helps people better understand the injustice of MMIWG2T and its impact on Indigenous communities. I want to shed light on the lives of Indigenous people who have been murdered or gone missing so everyone can see them as their loved ones do and know that they are much more than case numbers in police reports and markers in data.
IWMF: What is your goal with your project? What is the intended impact?
Chelsea: Ultimately, justice for Indigenous people. I also see the potential for this reporting to serve as a model for other journalists across the world who are seeking to do similar people-centered and investigative journalism in their communities. Apart from compiling data that Indigenous communities can choose to use to spot trends or generate possible solutions, I hope my project provides an avenue for Indigenous people to share the stories they want to tell. Like many communities of color, Indigenous voices have been historically overlooked or misrepresented in the news. By centering these stories, I hope more Indigenous people can walk away finally feeling heard and supported in their mission for answers about loved ones who are missing or were murdered.
We are thrilled to support Chelsea’s profound commitment to uplifting the voices of Indigenous communities, notably within her own Navajo Nation. Through her work, she seeks to uncover the systemic injustices contributing to the alarming rates of violence against Indigenous populations. Additionally, she sheds light on collaborative endeavors spanning sovereign nations and urban regions to foster change and accountability.
Check out the latest article featuring Chelsea and her work: Femicide on the front page — Free Future — Preventing Gender Violence Around the World (ourfreefuture.org)
And stay tuned for more on her crucial reporting!