November 2, 2021

Missing and Murdered Indigenous

Recently, you may have seen the acronym MMI, MMIW, and MMIWG2S in its various forms across social media and billboards in Spokane. This is a part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Movement, spreading awareness of the ongoing crisis in our communities. While Native people of all genders go missing at higher rates than their white counterparts, greater attention has been called to missing Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit individuals as they are experiencing the highest rates of violence. 

One of the biggest barriers to addressing this issue is data collection, as many cases go unreported, ignored, or miscategorized by the authorities. Of the 5,712 reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in 2016, only 116 (2%) were logged in a Department of Justice (DOJ) database. 

The limited data we do have shows that “the risk of rape or sexual assault is 2.5 times higher for Native women than the rest of the country.” In addition to these extreme rates of sexual assault and abuse, Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the average national rate

One of the barriers to prosecuting perpetrators in the past has been jurisdiction. Because of the 1978 Oliphant v Suquamish Indian Tribe Supreme Court ruling, tribal police couldn’t arrest non-tribal members who committed crimes on their land. This year, the US v Cooley Supreme Court decision in June changed things, allowing tribal authorities to finally arrest “non-Indian persons.” However, this ruling does not change many of the systemic problems that lead to complications between tribal and non-tribal justice systems. 

Native individuals are imprisoned at twice the rate of white and Hispanic individuals. This number may be higher. Currently, data is collected inconsistently for Indigenous racial groups. Native individuals are often categorized as “other” or left out in many states’ data. 

Tribal communities have also been scattered by both forced relocation in the 1830’s-50’s from the Indian Removal Act as well as lacking employment and education opportunities on reservations due to the legacy of settler colonialism

MMIW In Washington State

Washington State has the second highest rate of missing and murdered Indigenous according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. This is a local issue, affecting many women and girls in our own community. As of October 5th, 2021, the Washington State Patrol is reporting 108 missing Indigenous persons in the state. Of those 108 missing, 46 are from Eastern Washington. 

In response to this epidemic of violence, earlier this year, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People task force was created in Washington state, allowing for this issue to finally be investigated by a coalition of organizations and tribal-appointed individuals. This data will be presented to the state legislature and governor, hopefully allowing for new solutions and policies to prevent this terrible violence and fight the legacy of settler colonialism. 

Get Involved Locally

While official government response in our state has been more recent, many grassroots organizations and tribal-led movements have been bringing attention to the issue and doing what they can to support survivors. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting missing and murdered Native people and their families, educating the community, and advocating for policy changes. 

To get involved with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington go to their website and fill out the volunteer form. If you want to stay up to date on local cases of missing and murdered Indigenous, we recommend subscribing to receive their emails. You can also donate to MMIWW to help keep the mission going. This funding not only supports efforts to make policy change and develop community programs to prevent violence, but it also helps survivors and their families continue advocating for the rights of their missing and murdered loved ones.

If you can’t donate time or money, another way you can get involved is by simply raising awareness of this issue with the friends and family in your sphere of influence. Share key facts and statistics on social media, spread awareness of current ongoing cases to help support the cause. Call your local legislators and raise their awareness of the laws that impact Native women, girls, and two-spirits as well. 

Resources 

King 5: Poor data, racism fueling crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people, activists say 
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington
Missing Indigenous Persons – WSP

MMIWG2S
MMIW Short Report – End the Violence
Our Bodies, Our Stories – Urban Indian Health Institute
The Vanished
Tribal Community Response When a Woman Is Missing: A Toolkit for Action
UIHI MMIWG Report: A snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United States 

By: Rachel Dannen

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