MMIW National day of awareness

Indian Country Today

The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is not new. It has deep roots in colonization

Lucy Simpson, Navajo, is the executive director of the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. It's based in Lame Deer, Montana. She explains why today is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 

A few comments: 

"It's been something the mainstream media has picked up on recently and it's become a much more talked about issue. But in Native communities, we know it's been going on for hundreds of years."

"We have the StrongHearts Native helpline that provides, Native advocates on the phone that can provide, peer support or just connect you to resources. StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-762-8483.

"National day of awareness for missing and murdered Native women and girls started in 2017."

"It really came around from the advocacy of Melinda Harris, who was the mother of Hannah Harris, a 21-year-old woman from Northern Cheyenne tribe who went missing in Montana in 2013. She was found murdered just a few days later. May 5th is the birthday of Hannah Harris. And so this day was chosen to honor her and all Native women who had gone missing and murdered."

"Melinda was very active in taking the issues that they faced and the problems that they faced with the local law enforcement refusing to go out and do a search for Hannah. She raised this issue with the county. She raised this issue at the state level and took it up to the congressional delegation for Montana.

"Law enforcement did not respond. Family and the community had to organize their own search for Hannah and eventually, a few days later found Hannah."

"The horrible thing is that also at the end of this law enforcement actually scolded the family," for potentially destroying evidence.   

"But they actually were the ones that failed to respond. I think that's just one example of the roadblocks that Native families face, there's an assumption that, if the Native woman is missing that she doesn't want to be found, that she's doing something, putting herself at risk. "

"There is confusion about who, what jurisdiction is able to respond, whether it is a tribal state, County, whether the FBI should be involved.

"We've seen a lot of tribes developing their own search and rescues, and being the main point of contact now and getting other agencies involved in that. But we've really seen our community stepping up to push things forward, which is, you know, an exercise of our tribal sovereignty, which is one of the things that we really need to be focusing on or looking at a national policy level of what kind of changes do we need to make at the national level. Our tribes need to have full ability to exercise their full inherent sovereign authority to be able to take the actions that they know need to be taken to protect their community members."

"The department of justice statistics show that 80% of rapes are committed by non-Native people."

"When it comes to murdered and missing Native women have 10 times the national average of, of those cases. The concern about jurisdiction if we have non-Native people committing these crimes and our tribes are not able to prosecute non-Natives, then there's confusion about who does and the FBI is the only authority to be able to take those kinds of cases."

"Right now, tribal court sentencing is a maximum of almost three years if you have that enhanced authority. And that's even for the most heinous crimes, which include rape and murder."

Also on the daily newscast, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports updated COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country.

The host of the program is Patty Talahongva, executive producer of Indian Country Today.

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