One more state weighed in on the complex problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls this week. The issue is particularly complicated because there is no good collection of data. So the state of Arizona is setting out to study the issue first and then come up with a plan.
"We are one of seven states here in Arizona that now is addressing this issue, doing studies to gather the data," said Sen. Victoria Steele, Seneca/Mingo. "The hardest part for me is I want to get in there right now and fix this problem because while we're looking at the data that we know is out there, more women, more girls are going missing, more people are being murdered, more families are being destroyed. And, and it tears at my heart. But if we don't have the data, then we have nothing to base this work on."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the study commission bill into law Tuesday "... to the families of the victims here today and throughout the state. I want you to know that Arizona feels your pain and we stand with you in your effort to achieve justice and to bring this crisis to an end." Ducey is a Republican. The legislation was agreed to unanimously in the Senate, with two members not voting.
The House legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, White Earth Ojibwe, who said the committee will formally begin its meetings Aug. 27.
"We don't know exactly how big (the problem) is in Arizona. That data doesn't seem to exist anywhere. And one of the things that we will be tasked with is combing through news outlet archives, combing through family stories, combing through the different agency databases to see if we can piece together some of this data," she said. "so that we can get a better, better picture of what's happening here in Arizona so that we can start to tackle this problem at its root cause."
Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is the executive producer for Indian Country Today based in Phoenix. Email: ptalahongva@IndianCountryToday.com or on Twitter: @witespider.
Cover photo: Sen. Victoria Steele holding the ceremonial pen signing the study commission bill into law. (Photo by Patty Talahongva)