When the team at NCMEC asked Mark Pooley why he wanted to be the Tribal Fellow, his answer was simple.
“I want to get your resources to my people. ”
NCMEC’s Tribal Fellowship was announced in late 2021 to expand the National Center’s outreach to Native and Indigenous communities. The annual Fellowship was created to ensure geographic, tribal and professional diversity of perspective as NCMEC works to meet the needs of the 574 tribes and sovereign nations within the United States. As the 2022 Fellow, Pooley hopes to bring NCMEC resources to the places where they’re needed the most.
“The need for this position is huge,” Pooley said. “If someone in these communities goes missing, their resources are decades behind the non-Native world.”
Pooley, who is Navajo and Hopi, began his work with tribal communities in 2003, when he was a tribal prosecutor dealing with criminal and civil issues within the tribal court. After his time as a prosecutor, Pooley found his next calling in law enforcement, returning to a career he originally began back in 2001 at the Tempe Police Department in Arizona.
From 2005 on, Pooley spent the next 15 years as a highly respected law enforcement officer at Tempe PD, holding several detective and supervisory positions across the department.
Then, in August of 2020, Pooley made the difficult decision to medically retire from the career he loved following a cancer diagnosis in 2018 that left him with 10 vertebral fractures.
The cancer had broken his back, leaving Pooley unable to walk.
But the diagnosis didn’t stop him.
As Pooley was amid his cancer battle, receiving chemotherapy treatments and relearning to walk, he was also out visiting Native communities, meeting people and hearing their stories. It was during that time that he learned more about the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons Movement and decided he wanted to be part of the solution in finding his people.
So, he founded Native Search Solutions, a nonprofit that brings cutting edge investigative tools to Native communities to assist tribal law enforcement in locating missing Indigenous persons.
And then he came to NCMEC.
As NCMEC’s first Tribal Fellow, Pooley aspires to help NCMEC continue to build relationships with Native, Indigenous and tribal communities. He hopes that when a child goes missing on the reservation, or off, that there isn’t any hesitation to contact NCMEC. He hopes that if they have access, tribal law enforcement will immediately get the child entered into NCIC and that the family will call NCMEC for help.
By strengthening these connections, Pooley emphasizes the importance of solidifying trust between Native communities and NCMEC which he believes will begin with one thing: a listening ear.
“These families just want to be heard,” Pooley said. “NCMEC gives the opportunity for our Native Peoples to be heard when their loved one or their child goes missing, so they know that they’re not forgotten.”
It’s not hard to see how passionate Pooley is about this work. He wants the public to know that there’s a sense of urgency in obtaining these free resources. According to him, a solution will begin when people change the way they think, the way they work and become interested in helping the world around them.
Changing one’s mindset isn’t a new idea for Pooley, who today, looks at his cancer diagnosis as a blessing, a time in his life when he’s been able to step back and take a serious look at the world around him.
"Once you are put through that kind of pain, it will change you,” Pooley said. “You will have more compassion; you will have more patience and you will have more love for the people around you.”
“That’s why I do this work.”
May 5 marks the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. As a large focus of our mission, NCMEC is dedicated to bringing awareness and shining a light on the serious issues affecting Native communities across the United States.
To learn more about the free resources NCMEC provides to Native, Indigenous and tribal communities, follow this link: https://www.missingkids.org/blog/2020/resources-and-ta-native-american-community