August 7, 2019

From Lea Ann Holder, LCSW, LICSW, Generations of Healing

House Bill 2625, focusing on missing and murdered Indigenous women and increasing criminal justice resources, was introduced by Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) and was passed in March 2019. This is in response to years and, quite frankly, multigenerations of Indigenous young girls and women who have gone missing from their families and their homes, either in urban areas or on reservations. According to the National Women’s Resource Center 2013 Congressional Report, Native American Women experience violent victimization at a higher rate than any other US population. One in three women will be raped in their lifetime and more than 6 in 10 will be physically assaulted. Native women are stalked more than twice the rate of other women and are murdered more than 10 times the national average. It should be noted that non-Native perpetrators commit 88% of these violent crimes against Indigenous women.

Epidemic Proportions

Over 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing as of 2016, according to the National Crime Information Center, but only 116 of those cases were logged with the Department of Justice. This is an epidemic that is marked by the lack of data due to several factors. Many reservations are in rural areas with little access to broadband internet or cell phone service. Tribal law enforcement is also often inadequately staffed to oversee such large areas. Data sharing and consistency of information among reservations and government agencies are too often nonexistent. Reliable reporting is also miscalculated because of incorrect racial coding, meaning that too often Indigenous people are reported and classified as “white.” Because of continuous marginalization of Indigenous people coupled with the sheer lack of the acknowledgement of our existence, this crisis has not received the national attention it is warranted until recently.

Grief and Crisis Support

Deborah Shipman (Portland, Oregon) is the Director and founder of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA (MMIWUSA). Her organization’s mission is to help locate and track, nationally, the missing ones and to help facilitate their return home. The organization is multifaceted in that families are also provided with ongoing grief and crisis support. Spreading awareness and educating Indigenous women and girls about safety, self-defense, and self-determination are a sampling of the tools provided at the monthly MMIWUSA Staying Sacred Camp.

For too long this crisis has existed in the shadows. The passing of HB 2625 will be one step closer in illuminating awareness to help pave a path toward prevention.