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“What we do know is women and girls are disappearing without warning... Native women face murder rates that are 10 times higher than the national average."
When a Native American woman disappears, law enforcement does not take it seriously enough to pursue the case with urgency according to Deb Haaland, the first Native American Congresswoman in the United States.
Haaland, in an article to The Guardian, wrote, “In the case of Ashlyn Mike, a seven-year-old-girl in New Mexico, an amber alert wasn’t issued for more than 10 hours, when typically for cases of missing children those alerts are posted almost immediately. Ashlyn Mike lost her life at the age of seven.”
Another case is of Alyssa McLemore who went missing in April 2009 in Seattle. She informed her family that she was coming back home but she never did. After a few hours of her disappearance, two police officers went to her house saying that McLemore called the 911 and asked for help and they wanted to check whether she was home.
“At that point, we were trying to tell the police we don’t know where Alyssa is, she’s been gone,” Alyssa’s aunt said adding, “We got the standard, ‘You have to wait to report her missing, she’s grown, she can leave when she’d like. She hasn’t committed any crimes.’”
The missing person report was filed after four days. Nothing has been heard since then.
McLemore is one of the thousands of Native American women who have been victims of disappearances. However, there is no federal database available which would give a concrete number of how many Native American women go missing or murdered every year.
“What we do know is women and girls are disappearing without warning. What we do know is Native women face murder rates that are 10 times higher than the national average. What we do know is that families are left without answers. What we do know is there is a lot we do not know,” Haaland wrote.
Haaland proposed measures to address this “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.”
As the Native American country is severely underfunded, “first, we must adequately fund tribal law enforcement and victim advocates so survivors of domestic violence and trafficking do not become part of the statistics that contribute to loss of life,” she said.
Native women living in urban areas are more vulnerable. A report by the Urban Indian Health Institute identified 506 such cases across 71 cities.
According to Haaland, “These numbers are believed to be an extremely low estimate due to the lack of programmatic resources across the board to address issues of missing and murdered indigenous people in urban locations.”
This epidemic has been overlooked for a long time and finally, the silence is being broken.
“We finally have political voices to raise this issue on the national level. That’s why I’m fighting for Savana’s Act, and to ensure protections for Native people are included in the Violence Against Women Act,” said Haaland concluding with a resolution to change the “deadly cycle in Indian country.”