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Indigenous Women are Going Missing. And the U.S. Doesn’t Seem to Care.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SJSU chapter.

Charla Maria Ghost was 19-years-old when she went missing from the streets of Oakland in 1990. She was not the first Indigenous woman to go missing, and she was most definitely not last.

Indigenous women are going missing and being murdered at a rate that is being inaccurately reported by government entities, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. The UIHI found that there were 5,712 missing or murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) reported in 2016 across the United States, but only 116 of those cases were uploaded by the Department of Justice into government databases.

In a written testimony given to Congress during a hearing about MMIW in 2019, University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer said that the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women is not a new trend. Rather, it is one with roots that go back to when the first colonizers stepped foot in the new world.

Deer also shared that Sovereign Bodies Institute, an Indigenous-led group that has been analyzing data on Indigenous women and two-spirit people dating back to the 1900s, found that many of the reasons why Indigenous women have been disappearing are because of barriers between jurisdiction, government officials’ indifference and the insufficient funds being funneled into Indigenous justice systems.

The Sovereign Bodies Institute also found that Indigenous women were going missing because of “sex traffickers and other predators targeting Native women specifically.”

The data from the SBI referenced by Deer highlights the target that has been placed on Indigenous women and two-spirit people, reflecting the disregard the United States has displayed for Indigenous lives since the beginning.

Many women and two-spirit people have been murdered or missing, and it is important that government entities recognize and actively work to protect them. Police departments and government databases need to consistently report and actively pursue Indigenous disappearances and murders, as well as keep accurate counts of just how many MMIW there are.

If you are interested in donating to locations that help Indigenous communities and women, you can donate to the Sovereign Bodies Institute, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.

Hey! I'm Christina. I'm a third-year journalism major who loves crystals, vinyl records, houseplants, and the Sims 4.
Attending San Jose State University and majoring in marketing. I am a nature child who believes that traveling the world, meeting new people, eating good food, and embracing other cultures is a vital part of life. I enjoy painting, hammocking, and exploring Pinterest whenever I get the chance. Find me on Instagram @camytotah