Native American women are disappearing at an alarming rate, and no federal database tracks how many go missing each year. The current estimate of missing indigenous women by the Urban Indian Health Institute is 506 in 71 cities, an estimate the source admits is a lowball. As the Guardian reported, Native Americans disappear at twice the rate that white Americans do, and this is alarming as Native Americans are a small fraction of the population comparatively. Police departments aren’t much help, either–of the 71 cities researched, more than sixty percent admitted to inaccurately tracking incidents or provided researchers tainted data.
Campaigners say the largest contributors to the problem are systemic racism, issues with law enforcement, and a lack of data. The missing women are often victims of sexual violence, police brutality, or domestic violence. Perpetrators continue to engage in this activity because they can get away with it, largely due to late missing-persons reports and racial misclassification, the data collection being ruined, and the cases being ignored. Bills are being written to tackle the issue, including fixing the gaps in data collection to address the public mistrust of the police. A bill signed by Washington’s democratic governor, Jay Inslee, “will create two liaison positions within the Washington state patrol, the state’s police agency, whose job will be to build a relationship between governmental agencies and Native communities.” However, any large scale solution is bound to take time, especially given the lack of public attention shown to these cases.
Corporate media have addressed this issue to some extent. The topic has received coverage in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and on CNN, CBS News, and ABC, and NPR.
Source: Hallie Golden, “‘Sister, Where Did You Go?’: The Native American Women Disappearing from US Cities,” The Guardian, May 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/30/missing-native-american-women-alyssa-mclemore.
Student Researcher: James Byers (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)