Marching to Raise the Visibility of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
On February 14th, hundreds of people will gather in Minneapolis along with other communities around the state of Minnesota to honor the Indigenous girls, women, boys, two spirit and transgender relatives who have gone missing or murdered.
The March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, now in its 5th year, is organized by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, in partnership with the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, and several community based organizations; and builds on the organizing of Canadian sisters who held their first march on February 14th in 1992 in response to the murder of a woman on Powell Street in Vancouver, Canada. In addition to remembering the lives lost or missing, this march, along with other activities, raises critical awareness about the largely invisible crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Indigenous women and girls experience violence at disproportionately high rates--it is estimated that 84% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and that murder is the third-leading cause of death. This violence has gone largely unacknowledged, with missing and murdered women and girls literally falling off the radar--missing persons reports never filed, no media coverage, and lack of response or recording of these cases by police and other jurisdictions.
This violence and the invisibility of Indigenous women is the legacy of deeply-rooted patriarchal systems, settler colonialism, and genocide. Please join us in raising the visibility of this crisis and the visibility of Indigenous women and girls. Some suggestions are outlined below.
How to Get Involved
- Learn more about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. [see below for some resources]
- Host a learning circle or study group to learn more about this issue.
- Attend the March. If you are in Minneapolis, consider joining the march on February 14th. Learn more about the march here.
- Check out this Art Exhibit. If you are in Minneapolis, check out this art exhibit curated by artist Angela Two Stars, themed around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Resources for Understanding the Invisible Crisis of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women
Across this nation, countless Indigenous women and girls are disappearing or being murdered each year. In fact, Indigenous women and girls experience violence at disproportionately high rates--it is estimated that 84% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and that murder is the third-leading cause of death.This violence has gone largely unacknowledged, with missing and murdered women and girls literally falling off the radar--missing persons reports never filed, no media coverage, and lack of response or recording of these cases by police and other jurisdictions. This violence and the invisibility of Indigenous women is the legacy of deeply-rooted patriarchal systems, settler colonialism, and genocide.
Below we have compiled some resources that help shed light on this issue.
What We Know
- 84 percent of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime.
- Murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women, according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It is estimated that rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher that the national average.
- At least 506 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been killed in 71 U.S. cities, including more than 330 since 2010. (Source: Urban Indian Health Institute)
- Limited or complete lack of data being collected by law enforcement agencies suggests 506 is likely a gross undercount. (Source: Urban Indian Health Institute)
- 95 percent of these 506 cases were never covered by the national media and the circumstances surrounding many of these death and disappearances remain unknown. (Source: Urban Indian Health Institute)
What’s Being Done
Currently, there is growing momentum to raise the visibility of this issue as well as to create structures that can begin to examine the issue in more depth. These include:
- Commemorative Marches. Marches to commemorate the missing and murdered. Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition, in partnership with Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, following the lead of Canadian sisters, is organizing a march in Minneapolis and supporting others in organizing other marches in the state.
- Day of Awareness and Action. May 5th as been designated as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. The resolution was drafted in memory of Hanna Harris (Northern Cheyenne) who was murdered in July 2013 and first introduced in April 2016, the same day that RoyLynn Rides Horse (Crow) passed away after having been beaten, burned, and left in a field to die. Nearly 200 tribal, national, and state organizations supported this resolution. (Source and Source)
- Federal Legislation. At the end of January 2019, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has re-introduced legislation (known as Savanna’s Act -- named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year old Indigenous woman who was abducted and killed in North Dakota in 2017.) that would boost coordination and data collection among tribal, local, state and federal law enforcement in cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and would require the departments of Justice, Interior, and Health and Human Services to seek recommendations from tribes on enhancing the safety of Indigenous women. (Source)
- State Legislation. Several states, including Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, have just introduced legislation that would support the establishment of inter-agency task forces to address this issue of missing and murdered women and girls in their states. The state of Washington House Bill 2951 which was signed into law in 2018, requires study of how state and tribal law enforcement should work together with tribes and urban Native organizations, as well as the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, to better identify and report cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women within the state. (Source)
- Mapping and Data Collection. Annita Lucchesi, a cartographer and doctoral student at the University of of Lethbridge’s Cultural, Social and Political Thought program, has created and published an online database to log cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and two spirit people. She began populating the database in 2015. To date, Lucchesi has logged more than 2500 cases dating from 1900 with the majority in the last twenty years.