The statistics for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S) are staggering; and grossly underreported across the U.S. and Canada. A national day of awareness every May 5th aims to honour and remember those impacted; pushing for better systems to report and investigate these cases and provide long overlooked justice.
This post was updated June 17th 2022. Trigger Warning: This article includes mention of human trafficking, sexual assault and violence.
Department of Justice data found Native American women are murdered at a rate 10 times that of the national average; this is such an alarming statistic it should be more widely and universally known. However, the time dedicated to covering this within mainstream media is sadly lacking and does not reflect the seriousness and urgency with which this should be highlighted. If White women were murdered in this way and at this level there would be an outpouring of concern followed by resources and action; every level of government would be involved in some way — likely garnering worldwide attention.
Indigenous North Americans are acutely aware of the selective visibility the issues they face receive outside of their own communities; even after Canada’s comprehensive national inquiry, for example, that outlined many action points and goals to combat this issue; little has actually been implemented in any comprehensive and robust way. Here in the United States; despite the meaningful work of Secretary Haaland forming a new Missing & Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services; and President Biden expanding the criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to bring *non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault and human trafficking to justice — a significant contributor to murder and missing rates — MMIWG2S continues to be a marginalized movement within the consciousness of this nation as a whole.
*The connection between U.S. and Canadian oil pipelines running through or near Native and First Nations communities; and a substantial increase in rates of human trafficking, sex trafficking, sexual assault and violence against the Indigenous populations that live there cannot be ignored. Oil pipelines import a vast number of male workers into a region; setting up temporary housing known as “man camps” that are on/close to Indigenous People’s land. It’s with their arrival that the rates at which women, girls and Two-Spirit people are assaulted or go missing/end up murdered significantly increases. Male workers who commit these crimes often remain untraceable because they can promptly and easily move on from one pipeline project to the next.
Not only do these pipelines expose Native and First Nations communities to violence; they perpetuate environmental injustice through laying waste to their land and polluting their water supplies.
Systemic responses to violence against Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people should have been in place long before now; it seems attention, and responses to this critical issue remain inadequate.
Whether it’s the result of domestic violence, or assault and kidnapping from a known tribal member or non-Indigenous worker/stranger passing through a reservation; MMIWG2S and their families deserve better. We should all be listening to their voices and supporting what measures they’re advocating for. Funding and resources to aid reporting and investigating these crimes (including increased jurisdiction outside tribal lands) is a worthy place for any ally to start.
We can also highlight and question why there seems to be a persistent failure to investigate/prosecute offenders on a federal, state and local law enforcement level. From coroners misidentifying causes of death in order to close a case quickly to seemingly biased and discriminatory beliefs impacting investigative interest in cases like these; there is much to unpack and work on to set right.
In much the same way, our role as allies to this cause can be to make sure the world is paying attention; we can educate those around us by amplifying Indigenous voices and demanding the media listen to them.
We can start by following and supporting the following organizations:
What next steps are you going to take to help support the MMIWG2S movement? Do you have any other resources you could share to help the cause?
‘A Crisis Ignored’: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – The Crime Report