According to a database maintained by the Sovereign Bodies Institute, there are 529 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in the states through which the Keystone XL pipeline runs. Almost eighty percent of these cases remain unsolved and thirty percent are active missing-persons cases. The Sovereign Bodies Institute database is the only comprehensive, up-to-date- database that tracks murdered and missing Indigenous women in the US and Canada.
In June 2019, Canada released a 1,200-page report showing a strong link between oil extraction zones and missing and murdered women in Canada. It cited rotational shift work, substance abuse, economic insecurity, sexual harassment in the workplace, and a transient workforce as key factors contributing to increased violence against Native women in communities near fossil fuel infrastructure.
Contributing to the increase in violence in the US is the fact that the Major Crimes Act of 1885 limits what crimes tribal courts in the United States can prosecute. Also, a court ruling in Oliphant vs. Suquamish in 1978 asserted that tribal courts cannot prosecute non-Native offenders, even when they live on tribal lands. The FBI or county sheriffs are supposed to provide support in areas where tribes do not have jurisdiction, but between 2005 and 2009 those law enforcement agencies declined to prosecute 67% of the 2,500 cases involving sexual violence that were referred to them.
The only time that the national media paid attention to sexual violence targeting women near extraction-site communities was in 2012, when a white teacher was raped and murdered by two men. The only media attention that this issue has received has come from independent media that mostly deal with women or Native issues.
Source: Abaki Beck, “Why Aren’t Fossil Fuel Companies Held Accountable for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?” YES! Magazine! October 4, 2019 https://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/native-fossil-fuel-missing-murdered-indigenous-women-mmiwg-20191004.
Student Researcher: Jeramy Dominguez (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Ashley Hall (Sonoma State University)