Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is a human rights issue affecting Native American communities throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. The statistics surrounding this issue are devastating, and the small amount of awareness surrounding this topic is disheartening. The long record of violence against Indigenous women can be traced back to the colonial period of the United States. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women, according to the Sicangu Community Development Corporation (CDC), and the majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. MMIWG-related violence affects urban Native Americans as well as those living on federally-defined tribal land. More public attention and advocacy should be allocated to this horrific issue, which is so deeply rooted in our country’s history. There is not enough coverage or research done on this topic, making it difficult to gain attention.
According to a report from the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), “The majority of American Indian and Alaska Native people now live in urban communities due to a variety of reasons for migration…” A study conducted by the UIHI in 2017 that focused on urban MMIWG cases found that the state of Montana is one of the top ten states with MMIWG cases, with a total of 41 as of the date of publication.
In 2019, the UIHI reported that 95% of MMIWG cases are never covered in national or international media. Let that sink in. News coverage surrounding these cases needs to be shared for progress to be achieved. The Sicangu CDC wrote in an article titled “#MMIW: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” that one of the top reasons this issue persists is because of poor media coverage. Another reason highlighted is the lack of database and tracking resources, which creates an inaccurate understanding of the problem’s scope. The first page of the report describes the study and reads, “Due to Urban Indian Health Institute’s limited resources and the poor data collection by numerous cities, the 506 cases identified in this report are likely an undercount of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls in urban areas.” The “facts” we have access to may not even be correct due to the lack of effort and priority provided to this issue. Women and girls are going missing and being killed due to their race. This is far from okay and American media outlets have the responsibility of providing coverage on this issue.
The lack of public media coverage means that individuals must take it upon themselves to become more educated on this topic. There are a variety of resources providing information on MMIWG cases. Recently, I have been listening to a podcast on Spotify titled, “Stolen: The Search for Jermain,” which covers the case of a missing woman from Missoula, Montana. I highly recommend listening to this podcast, as it is an effective way to raise awareness and educate yourself and others on the topic of MMIWG. There are also several books and films to read and watch about this issue, such as “Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls,” by Emmanuelle Walter and “Our Sisters in Spirit.”
In terms of MMIWG cases, the statistics of violence are high while the numbers of people with knowledge on this issue are low. More effort needs to be put into decreasing the number of Indigenous women experiencing violence. We also need to work to gain justice for those who have been killed. Sicangu CDC refers to this human rights issue as “a generations-long silent epidemic” that demands a continuous increase in awareness.