Indian Country Today: Urban Indian Health report identifies 506 urban Missing & Murdered Women, Girls

Murkowski comment on MMIW: While Canada has contributed 10's of millions to effort, “the U.S. has invested about zero."

Researchers have looked at the data from 71 U.S. cities and have identified 506 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW / MMIWG). The report was released today by the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, titled Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls, a snapshot of data from urban cities in the United States.

In the report, researches also revealed significant challenges in collecting data on the total number of missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives residing off-reservation and outside rural villages.

“Seventy-one percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas, yet, accurate data does not exist regarding the rates of violence among this population,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute and citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.

Echo-Hawk, who said in a release that the report is a “step towards addressing this epidemic,” also stated the report would provide “a necessary snapshot of the epidemic and is a call-to-action to protect Native women and girls.”

Annita Luccesi, Southern Cheyenne descent, is a co-author of the report with Echo-Hawk. Lucchesi found in the course of her research some significant issues: a lack of available data on urban Indians; the need for non-tribal law enforcement agencies to coordinate with tribal nations regarding their members and to share data on MMIWG; the racial misclassification of missing and murder cases who may be American Indian or Alaska Native -- but it was not noted in their records; and inadequate funding for research on violence against urban American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls.

“We owe it to these women and girls to fully identify the scope of the problem,” Lucchesi said in a release. “What we found in our research was that in some cases law enforcement agencies didn’t even have records on file to consult, they were simply going off what they could remember of past cases. This is unacceptable.”

The top ten states are New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, Montana, California, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota and Oklahoma.The institute report identified the state of Alaska as the fourth-leading state for number of cases of MMIWG.

 “This is data that most of these jurisdictions have never seen before,” said Echo-Hawk in the release. “We were able to identify these cases over the course of a year, on a shoestring budget, and our research points to a much larger tragedy. More research is urgently needed so that legislators at all levels of government can address the issue with thoughtful and targeted policies.”

The researchers also note that Urban Indian organizations need this information to better inform programming and to advocate for change. They also note that this issue is more than just data.

“This is much more than data collection,” said Lucchesi. “This work is an assertion of Indigenous women's right to sovereignty and safety, and of tribal nations and Native researchers' right to take leadership in efforts aimed at ending violence against indigenous women."

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, highlighted the report in a press event in Washington, DC, today where she talked about the importance of addressing the MMIWG epidemic. Murkowski was joined by U.S. senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th District), and Juana Majel-Dixon (Pauma Band of Mission Indians), Executive Board Member and Recording Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

During the press event, Sen. Murkowski opened with remarks about the tragic cases of MMIWG including Savanna Greywind, Sophie Sergie and 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr.

Murkowski called the statistics “pretty shocking” but sadly not surprising. “So what are the numbers here? I remember when we first came together to focus on MMIW. At the time, the thought was that the problem was primarily on remote Indian reservations where we know that law enforcement assets are sparse and you've got issues of cooperation between the tribes and the state and federal law enforcement agencies. But now we are learning … that we've got 507 cases of Sophies and Savannas.”

Murkowski then cited the report confirmation regarding Native women MMIW statistics in urban communities. “There are 282 confirmed murdered 127 confirmed missing and 98 cases in unknown status,” said Murkowski. “We have to assume 572 is an undercount.”

Murkowski then recognized Canada’s government had contributed 54 million dollars to its own MMIW inquiry. While the United States did not fund research.

“Canada has contributed tens of millions. We’ve invested about zero,” she said. “We have a great deal of work to do We need to be doing more.”

UIHI intends to provide the report as a resource for urban Indian organizations, tribal governments, and legislators.


By:  Vincent Schilling
Source: Indian Country Today