New Report Identifies 506 Urban Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & GirlsTweet
Analysis of data in 71 U.S. cities points to much larger problem, inaccurate data
“Seattle Indian Health Board wants legislators to understand that it doesn’t matter if you are living on a reservation, in a village, or in an urban area, many of the same historical and institutional problems that have led to the appalling MMIWG rates remain. This report by our research division, the Urban Indian Health Institute, allows for urban Indian organizations, tribal governments, and legislators to begin advocating for change around this issue in new ways.” -Esther Lucero (Dinè), CEO, Seattle Indian Health Board
SEATTLE — A snapshot of data from 71 U.S. cities identified 506 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). In a report released today by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, researchers also revealed significant challenges in collecting data on the total number of missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives residing off-reservation and outside rural villages.
“Seventy-one percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas, yet, accurate data does not exist regarding the rates of violence among this population,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Director of UIHI and citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. “This report is a step towards addressing this epidemic.”
UIHI intends to provide the report as a resource for urban Indian organizations, tribal governments, and legislators.
“This report provides a necessary snapshot of the epidemic and is a call-to-action to protect Native women and girls,” said Echo-Hawk.
Annita Luccesi is a co-author of the report with Echo-Hawk and is a Southern Cheyenne descendant. Lucchesi found in the course of her research some significant issues: a lack of available data on urban Indians; the need for non-tribal law enforcement agencies to coordinate with tribal nations regarding their members and to share data on MMIWG; the racial misclassification of missing and murder cases who may be American Indian or Alaska Native, but it was not noted in their records; and inadequate funding for research on violence against urban American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls.
“We owe it to these women and girls to fully identify the scope of the problem,” Lucchesi said. “What we found in our research was that in some cases law enforcement agencies didn’t even have records on file to consult, they were simply going off what they could remember of past cases. This is unacceptable.”
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) highlighted the report in a press event in Washington, DC, today where she talked about the importance of addressing the MMIWG epidemic. Murkowski was joined by U.S. senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th District), and Juana Majel-Dixon (Pauma Band of Mission Indians), Executive Board Member and Recording Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). The UIHI report identified the state of Alaska as the fourth-leading state for number of cases of MMIWG. Also, in the top ten states are New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, Montana, California, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
“This is data that most of these jurisdictions have never seen before,” said Echo-Hawk. “We were able to identify these cases over the course of a year, on a shoestring budget, and our research points to a much larger tragedy. More research is urgently needed so that legislators at all levels of government can address the issue with thoughtful and targeted policies.”
The researchers also note that Urban Indian organizations need this information to better inform programming and to advocate for change. They also note that this issue is more than just data.
“This is much more than data collection,” said Lucchesi. “This work is an assertion of Indigenous women’s right to sovereignty and safety, and of tribal nations and Native researchers’ right to take leadership in efforts aimed at ending violence against indigenous women.”
Law makers respond to the report
“Tlingit and Haida stands with the Seattle Indian Health Board and anyone else prepared to take a stand, bring awareness, and work towards meaningful solutions around this crisis. It’s time to denormalize violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.” -Richard Peterson (Tlingit), President, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
“This new report, authored from within the native community, provides leaders on the local, state, and federal levels with important insight for addressing the crisis of missing native women and girls with the urgency and efficacy it deserves. Too often, our nation has ignored or misclassified the terrible stories of violence against women and girls in tribal communities who for years have been reported missing or murdered at much higher rates than their non-native counterparts—or worse, not reported at all. It’s a devastating reality for too many native families in Washington state and around the country that has previously received little research or data collection, creating a significant barrier to efforts to end the decades-long epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. A sincere thank you to the Seattle Indian Health Board for shining a light on this disturbing trend impacting countless native families and communities, and as a voice for Washington state know that I will continue pushing to strengthen federal support for tribal priorities and listening to native voices as we all work together to end the tragedy of this senseless epidemic.” -U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
“The collection of data on missing and murdered Native American women across the country is critical—but it’s just the beginning. We need to continue these efforts and identify solutions to address this epidemic, which is why we’ve introduced Savanna’s Act. This bill will improve information sharing between law enforcement agencies, establish response protocols, and increase data collection on crimes committed across Indian Country.” -U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
“This painstakingly-researched report is a much-needed wake-up call to policymakers and officials across the country. The report confirms that the United States faces a crisis when it comes to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the lack of accurate data and appropriate media coverage has played a crucial role in the epidemic.” -U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
“When I introduced Savanna’s Act, one of the main goals was to raise the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women to a national level and begin the conversation of how to address it. Today’s report is significant because it sheds light on the scope of the problem, which we have to understand if we’re going to make policy changes to address it. With today’s report and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee moving forward on Savanna’s Act, we’re taking important steps toward finally raising the awareness needed to save lives and tackle this horrible epidemic.” -U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
“We cannot remain silent while countless missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are being ignored. This report shines a light on the crises happening in Tacoma and across the country. Congress and law enforcement agencies at every level of government must work together to stem the tide of violence against indigenous women and ensure justice is served.” -Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
Brad Angerman, Communications Manager (primary contact)
Seattle Indian Health Board
Meg Goforth-Ward, Communications Associate (secondary contact)
Urban Indian Health Institute
206-324-9360 (ext. 3024)