September 27th, 2019
Native American women experience increased violence
WED. | 10-28-20 | OPINION
Native Americans have been fighting for their rights for centuries, but to this day, they are overlooked and forgotten, especially the women. According to Los Angeles Times writer Bill Steigarwald, Native Americans are the most oppressed minority in the U.S. and he said that this is because of their history and current treatment by non-native people and the government. According to History.com, when colonists first came to the U.S., Christopher Columbus commanded that six natives would become his servants, and he would call for some of the natives to be murdered. Columbus and some of the other colonists had a history of raping and beating Native women. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of their abuse. As a woman who has Cherokee and Shawnee Native American heritage, this topic is extraordinarily important to me.
According to the National Crime Information Center, 5,712 Native American women went missing in 2016 alone. It is very surprising to see how few people actually know about this, and I think it’s because of the lack of acknowledgement in the popular media. According to New York Times writer Jack Healy, there isn’t a reliable count of how many of these women actually go missing each year. According to the FBI, so many Native Women have gone missing in recent years because of the lack of communication between different law enforcement agencies. Some of these investigations don’t even get initiated. The few women that are found report that they've experienced violence.
According to the National Institute of Justice, 84% of Native American women have experienced violence in their life. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said that Native Americans are murdered at a rate ten times higher than any other ethnicity in the U.S. It should be a big eye opener to these law agencies when tons of women from these communities go missing. You’d think that this would be the time when they’d come together to try and find the missing women.
The more communication there is between law enforcement and tribal law enforcement, the more recognition there would be for this situation. Not only that, I believe that if these agencies were more educated in this matter, then it would be taken more seriously. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), this lack of communication caused only 116 out of 1.5 million of the missing women to be registered in the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) database, meaning only a few women were recognized as missing.
The BIA is meant to provide services to Native American and Alaska Natives including recognition through the government and registration of crimes that have been committed on reservations. For some reason, the BIA hasn’t brought recognition to many of these women and other missing persons, so a lot of the crimes that
Infographic by Liv Stewart
have been committed have been ignored. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, BIA collects monthly crime statistics from the Tribal enforcement, but this doesn’t track missing persons reports. This, coupled with the increase in human trafficking, show why we need to focus on and recognize the missing women.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, over 40% of women that are forced into human trafficking identify as Native American. Lots of places that have huge Native American populations — such as Phoenix, Arizona and Cherokee, North Carolina — are hotspots for human trafficking. According to Freedom United — an organization trying to end modern day slavery — Natives are calling for stricter tribal laws to be put in place in order to be protected. Since there are over thousands of women that are missing, it’s possible that a lot of them were sold off during trafficking.
I think that putting stricter laws in place can help prevent trafficking. To maybe help get that to happen, petitions can be signed, and rallies can be held once we get COVID-19 under control. If the tribal government can see what the people want, then they can start considering communicating with the U.S. government to put new laws in place, and they can help find and punish the killers and kidnappers of the victims. Luckily, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) was designed to help end violence and sexual assault by holding protests so the government can put certain laws in place.
Native Women’s Wilderness (NWW) and Indigenous Women Hike (IWH) have partnered to create MMIW. MMIW is an organization made to recognize and try to find the thousands of missing Native American women. Their slogan, “No More Stolen Sisters,” is meant to call out to these missing women, and it is used to show people who they are. Through their bright colors and imagery in their logo, they show symbolism for religious beliefs.
Their logo consists of a Native woman in front of a red background wearing a turquoise earring. The inspiration for the background came from the protests where they would wear red shirts. Based on Native belief, red symbolizes MMIW calling out to the spirits of the missing women. In the image, the turquoise is meant to symbolize protection from evil spirits and protection for any missing women who are still alive. It is good to see that there is an organization out there that is trying to help spread the word in order for people to see the pain that these tribes are going through. To help find and advocate for these missing women, they take donations and perform rallies.
When I speak about this topic to my peers, it’s always a big shock to them when they hear about how many Native women just went missing in one year. Some of them don’t even believe me sometimes. With the amount of Native women missing in the U.S., it’s upsetting to see that not many people know about them. There is some good news, President Trump has signed the Savanna’s Act which helps protect Native American women. According to Congress, this act trains law enforcement on how to record tribal enrollment, educate the country on the Native abuse, and develop appropriate cases when searching for missing Native persons. This is a great thing, and a step forward to help seek equality. If you would like to help out, I would recommend donating to NWW, MMIW, ,IWH, or any local Native American charity.