Native American women face crime at a rate higher than any other group of women in the United States. The Urban Indian Health Institute has found that at least 506 indigenous women and girls are either missing or have been killed in 71 cities. Most of these cases were never covered by the news media. These women range in ages from infancy to one who was 83 years of age. And these are just the women that we know about. Why is the media not covering the horror that Native American women face?
It’s not just the media. In 2016, 5,712 cases of missing Native American women were reported to the National Crime Information Center. Yet, only 116 were logged into the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing person’s database. Again, why? I personally think that racism, which I find to be endemic in the American experience, is the biggest reason why no one seems to care about Native American women who are missing or who have been murdered.
Despite the Department of Justice showing how little they care, in 2017, the Democrats introduced a bill called Savanna’s Act, which was named in honor of Savanna Greywind of the Spirit Lake Nation, who was killed while pregnant. This bill was designed to help improve data collection for missing and murdered Native American women. This bill has passed the
Walter Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee writer, speaker, and attorney, has said that Native American women and girls go missing “three times” – in life, in data, and in the media. These families of these women and girls carry their loss by themselves as nobody sees the women they love when they disappear or are murdered.
Interestingly, the #MeToo movement has also left behind the trauma and violence that Native American women will experience. Four out of five of these women will face
Bree Blackhorse, an attorney with the law firm, Galanda Broadman, who works to protect the rights of all tribal people says that the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women in Indian country touches everyone in these communities. She goes on to say, “The #MeToo movement applies to Native American women, but it’s “hard to worry about things like equal pay and fair treatment in the workplace when, as a Native American woman, at times you’re just trying to survive.”
Abigail Echo-Hawk, who is Pawnee, is the Chief Research Officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board. She also serves as the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute. She says, “Our women and our children, our girls, they hold such value within our communities. For us to let their deaths to just go unnoticed – for people not to know that we have missing women in our communities, for their voices not to be heard – to me was unacceptable.”
I, too, find it unacceptable that hundreds of Native American women go missing or are murdered each year and few in the United States do anything about it. If you are a part of the #MeToo movement like I am, we need to start conversations to ensure that this movement starts talking about issues that affect Native American women. What else can you do to spotlight the murdered and missing Native American women?