The Search For Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women
Kaysera Stops Pretty Places was 18 years old when she was found dead in the backyard of a Hardin, Montana home. She was a member of the Crow/Northern Cheyenne tribal communities. And her family wants answers and justice, after local law enforcement couldn’t determine the cause of her death.
Stops Pretty Places’ story is one of many. There are over 2,300 missing Native American women and girls in the United States, according to a report released last month by the Sovereign Bodies Institute. Native American women and girls also face some of the highest levels of murder, domestic abuse and sexual violence in America.
But as The Pacific Northwest Inlander wrote, the members and leaders of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement didn’t need this data to tell them something was happening, and that it was being overlooked by law enforcement.
For years, the women-led movement has demanded justice for their lost loved ones in the U.S. and Canada, where there’s a lack of comprehensive data on how many have gone missing. They called attention to the stories of their sisters, mothers and grandmothers, which they often felt had gone unheard. They pointed to the fact that more than half of Native American women face sexual or intimate-partner violence during their lifetime, and that in some areas, Native women are murdered at rates more than 10 times the national average, according to the Justice Department.
Late last year, Attorney General William Barr announced an initiative to amplify the federal government’s role in the search process. President Donald Trump also announced the creation of a new task force on missive and murdered Indigenous people, called Operation Lady Justice. Several federal cold case task force offices are opening across the country to assist in solving these cases, and getting more data on them.
But do those commitments from the Department of Justice and the White House go far enough? What’s causing these disappearances and murders? And what can we do about it?
If you or someone you know needs help, StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) is a domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offering culturally-appropriate support and advocacy daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Anonymous and confidential.
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