A snapshot of data from 71 U.S. cities identified 506 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In a report released by the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, researchers also revealed significant challenges in collecting data on the total number of missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives residing off-reservation and outside rural villages.
Washington had the second-highest number of combined missing and murder cases with 71.Seattle led the state with the highest number of combined missing and murder cases with 45. Tacoma had the seventh highest number of cases with 25. Only one case in the state falls outside of those two cities.
“Seventy-one percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas, yet, accurate data does not exist regarding the rates of violence among this population,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Director of UIHI and citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. “This report is a step towards addressing this epidemic.”
Annita Luccesi is a co-author of the report with Echo-Hawk and is a Southern Cheyenne descendant. Lucchesi found in the course of her research some significant issues: a lack of available data on urban Indians; the need for non-tribal law enforcement agencies to coordinate with tribal nations regarding their members and to share data about missing women; the racial misclassification of missing and murder cases who may be American Indian or Alaska Native, but it was not noted in their records; and inadequate funding for research on violence against urban American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls.
“We owe it to these women and girls to fully identify the scope of the problem,” Lucchesi said. “What we found in our research was that in some cases law enforcement agencies didn’t even have records on file to consult, they were simply going off what they could remember of past cases. This is unacceptable.”
The researchers noted that Urban Indian organizations need this information to better inform programming and to advocate for change.
“This is much more than data collection,” said Lucchesi. “This work is an assertion of indigenous women’s right to sovereignty and safety, and of tribal nations and Native researchers’ right to take leadership in efforts aimed at ending violence against indigenous women.”