Written by By Tedd Hughes, CNN
With hundreds of missing indigenous women unaccounted for, one community in New Mexico is taking the spotlight off of foreigners and finding those it once had lost.
“When the flood first hit it was a couple of houses and it was the little women,” said Iona Love, who lives in the community of Petito.
“We don’t have a history of going and looking for our stolen girls but then the floods came and everybody started running. It was just flooding and everybody was running for their life, going along the side of the river, watching the water keep coming in, just trying to get out of there. Everyone got out of there and a couple of days later I got to see that they left there and they didn’t come back.”
Tributes to “Petito 7” (pictured above) have been left all over the community for seven missing women who all disappeared in a small community called Petito. Credit: lisa jegele/thuff photography
“I know they have all died, I believe they are all drowned and they didn’t come back for us so we decided to keep looking for them.”
Petito is located near the river Botticello, and the community comprises about 700 or so people.
Its indigenous Pueblo people had a relationship with the river since the Pueblo Indians first moved to the area around 900 AD.
Love believes she and her fellow villagers were drowning when the water came in. They know who their missing girls are, but don’t dare try to find them on foot, because walking back to the highway offers additional risk.
“It’s a really good feeling knowing that you’re keeping them alive and keeping them strong and they will come back,” Love said.