Let us bring awareness, solidarity, love, and a demand for justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
In Trump’s America, the imminent danger of toxic rhetoric towards indigenous communities broods within. His racism and intolerance of indigenous communities have only fueled the fire of an ongoing battle, reminding us of the stolen land we are on. The racially charged “Pocahontas” and “Indians” characterization and language he used against Native Americans created rallying whoops and cheers during his 2016 presidential campaign.
In a world where we are facing a global pandemic, another pandemic continues to reach unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in indigenous communities. President Trump declared May 5, 2020, as Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day. The proclamation reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to ending violence against Native women, stating, “Resiliency, collaboration, and resourcefulness are all necessary to eradicate the heartbreaking incidents of missing persons and fatal violence experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native communities across our country.”
The exact number of missing and murdered Native American women is unknown, as such cases often go unreported and lack media coverage. According to the National Congress of American Indians, the murder rate of Native women is ten times the national average on some reservations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also found that homicide is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between 10-24 years of age.
Native American communities meet tribal police and federal authorities with frustration. Cases are not handled urgently or thoroughly. It is ignorant to rule out how racism contributes to the issue. Tribal police and investigators from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs serve as law enforcement on reservations. It is important to remind ourselves: reservations are sovereign nations.
The hashtag #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) has drawn much attention from law enforcement, legislators, and the general public. The hashtag is often used to call attention to missing or murdered loved ones. It is also a call for the public never to forget the names or faces of the women missing or murdered. We should demand justice for the lives of those who have been lost.
SO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
It is a political, moral, ethical, and human necessity that our nation has a new partnership between the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, assuring that data management and tracking are not only improved but accounted for in budgeting. Legislative responses and actions have failed to protect Native Women, and in order to ensure their safety, Tribal jurisdiction must be extended.
The grassroots activism that is being ignited by the indigenous people must not falter, but instead must be met with national support. Indigenous leaders are holding community meetings, databases, vigils, and red dress exhibitions to raise awareness on a looming pandemic that must be addressed. And the nation needs to listen.