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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: About

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Addressing the Epidemic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Native American women are murdered and sexually assaulted at rates as high as 10 times the average in certain counties in the United States—crimes overwhelmingly committed by individuals outside the Native American community. These crimes are particularly likely in remote settings where transient workers - oil workers, for example - live in temporary housing units called “man camps” on and near Tribal lands. Their crimes fall between jurisdictional cracks, leaving victims and their families without recourse. As Nick Martin summarized, these are “Patterns of violent men and extractive industries breezing through land they do not own to take lives that do not belong to them. Patterns of Tribal sovereignty being undermined and jurisdictional borders being crossed. Patterns of police dismissing concerned mothers and fathers and aunties and grandparents with the excuse that ‘runaways always come back.’ Patterns of coroners dodging paperwork and scrawling ‘other’ next to the line titled ‘Race’ and ‘accidental death’ next to ‘C.O.D.’ Patterns of government officials, top to bottom, ignoring practical, sovereignty-first reforms and instead hoarding the kind of power that keeps the crisis alive.” (Continue reading from Cultural Survival)

Indigenous Women are Alarmingly Vulnerable to Attack

There is no clear profile of a person who kills or kidnaps indigenous women — attackers run the range from sex traffickers to serial killers, rapists, and even family members. There is no “typical” scenario. Instead, both indigenous activists and police point to systemic vulnerability.

Indigenous women are vulnerable in all the ways other women in Canada are, only, to the extreme.

“It’s the socioeconomic conditions that colonization and genocidal institutions that have made them vulnerable,” Huntley said. “Perpetrators know who they’re going to get away with killing or not.”

Indigenous activists point to the legacy of colonialism in Canada for creating this environment — disenfranchisement from wealth, the push to put indigenous people on poor, isolated reserves, and the ongoing acts of cultural genocide against indigenous people.

The following are just some of the problems aboriginal people suffer from disproportionately:

  • Incarceration rates: A 2014 report says approximately half of aboriginal offenders enter the Canadian criminal justice system under the age of 30, compared with 36 percent of non-aboriginals. They also receive longer sentences and are more likely to be sent to high-security institutions.
  • Suicide rates and mental health challenges: Aboriginal people are much more likely to die by suicide than non-aboriginals in Canada, with some communities suffering from a suicide “epidemic.”
  • Substance abuse: Approximately 75 percent of residents in First Nation and Inuit communities say alcoholism is a problem in their communities. The myth that aboriginal people are more genetically susceptible to alcoholism has been debunked, but systemic issues such as poverty, trauma, and lack of access to health care contribute to addiction.
  • Poverty: Based on data from the 2006 census, half of First Nation children lived in poverty. For some communities, like those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the rates rise to 62 and 64 percent, respectively, of children living below the poverty line. (Continue reading from Vox)
Lacking Records and Racial Misclassification

Nine cities (13% of total) reported the inability to search for American Indian, Native American, or Alaska Native in their data reporting systems despite the common and expected practice of classifying victims by race in data systems. A representative from Santa Fe police wrote, “[Many] Native Americans adopted Hispanic names back during colonial times…Our crime systems are not flexible enough to pick out Native Americans from others in the system…it would be impossible to compile any statistically relevant information for you.” In Seattle, UIHI was initially provided one list then subsequently provided another. Considering they had significant overlap, UIHI asked for an explanation of the difference between the two and were told: “[Regarding the difference] the Homicide unit found that ‘N’ was being used in the 60s up through the late 70s and early 80s – meant Negro not Native American.” However, all of the names that were on the original list—which presumably had both American Indian and Alaska Native and African American names on it—were also on the second list and did not provide any clarification. Additionally, several police departments provided UIHI with data that included both American Indians and Indian-Americans with visibly Indian-American surnames (e.g. Singh). When asked about this misclassification, a representative from Sacramento police claimed the Indian-American names must be victims who were biracial. (Continue reading from Urban Indian Health Institute Report)

Learn More

MMIWG2S (Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women)

No More Stolen Sisters (Amnesty International Canada)

MMIW Campaign (Global Indigenous Council)

Reclaiming Power and Place (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Canada)

Topic: MMIW (Vice)

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls  (University of British Columbia Library)

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG) (UC Santa Cruz American Indian Resource Center)

Our Bodies, Our Stories (Urban Indian Health Institute)

Publications and Resources (Sovereign Bodies Institute)

Resource Library (National Indigenous Women's Resource Center)

Murdered and Disappeared Native Women (Native Women's Society)

Executive Order on Establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (White House)

Canada Asked For a Report On MMIWG. Now It's Ignoring It.  (Flare)

MMIW Resource Guide  (Lakota People's Law Project)

#MMIWG Media Activism
Learn More About the History, Culture and Current Social Concerns of Native Peoples