Seven boys and one girl. Nearly 15 grandchildren.
Virginia David, a member of the Navajo tribe, made family her life.
“The more kids you have, the more blessed you are in our culture,” said her sister, Priscilla Gibbs, who grew up with Virginia and their siblings on a Navajo Reservation. “So, she was very blessed. She lived for her kids and grandkids.”
While many choose to leave the reservation, Virginia remained, participating in ceremonies and keeping herself involved in the community. She worked for the State of Arizona for several years as a prison guard and earned the nickname “Mama David.”
But in 2015, drunk driving touched every member of that family when a drunk driver killed Virginia.
Sadly, they are not alone.
The threat to the American Indian community
We recognize November as Native American Heritage month, and we want to spotlight the specific hardships drunk and drugged driving inflicts on this community.
Native Americans have the highest percentage of alcohol-involved driver, passenger and pedestrian fatalities of any ethnic group. Three out of four Native American drivers and eight out of ten pedestrian fatalities occur in alcohol-related crashes. While many victims find the justice system confusing and frustrating, Native Indians often navigate both the U.S. justice system and a tribal system.
“Many community members live in rural areas. The message hasn’t been shared as much as I’d like,” said Patty Abeyta-Young, lead victim services specialist for Arizona.
Yet, progress is being made. Twice now, MADD assisted Virginia’s family with the Window Rock Walk Like MADD to honor those killed and injured and fight to prevent the spread of this 100% preventable crime.
“I know the families would like to thank everyone who participated in the walk,” she said. “The hope is that MADD to become a well-known name like it is in the cities.”
Virginia worked as a non-emergency transporter, taking patients to their medical appointments. She was on the way to drop a patient off at a doctor’s appointment when a drunk driver hit her head on.
The death toll hit five. Virginia, her patient, the driver and his two passengers — all killed.
“Family meant so much to her that my first thought was about the kids. How would they deal with this?” said Priscilla. “That’s how I ended up reaching out to Patty, and she has been such a big help since day one.”
Now, Priscilla, who volunteers for MADD, understands the very real dangers of drunk driving.
“Lately, I feel like we hear it on the news all the time,” she said. “This crash happened or that person was killed. Before this happened, I didn’t really understand how far the damage extended, but now I do.”
Priscilla wants to continue the Window Rock Walk Like MADD, but she also wants to do more.
“I want to reach out to the schools there, take the message to the meeting halls,” she said. “I want to get materials and brochures into the hands of our people to make them aware.”