Save Our Indigenous Sisters

Teyanna Kaibetoney, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Indigenous women and girls are experiencing more violence than any other ethnic group. These brutal acts of violence leave families lost, without answers and mourning. In addition, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and nieces are being taken nearly every day and there is nothing being done about it. Missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) is a crisis that needs to end.

According to the National Institute of Justice’s May 2016 report, more than four in five (84.3%) Alaska Native and Native American women have experienced violence in their lifetime. While comparing this to the rates for white women, the report stated that only 34.5% of white women experience violence in their lifetime. The era of the Me Too movement has brought forward powerful stories and a call for change, yet indigenous women are being left out of the narrative. Native women are missing and experiencing brutal acts of violence yet not many people know about this except the people affected, and these people are shouting for a change.

The cases of missing indigenous women usually get dismissed without law enforcement trying to find the perpetrator. The perpetrators are reported to be non-native men who know they will get away with the crimes they commit. These men go onto reservations to rape and murder indigenous women and proceed to live their lives without any sort of consequence. These perpetrators go unpunished because tribal governments can’t prosecute non-native perpetrators.

The National Crime Information Center said there were 5,712 cases reported in the United States in 2016. While other sources said there were 2,000 cases. There is a huge gap between 2,000 and 5,000, but there is no way to know the exact number of cases because there is no record and no database.

Denae Shaniidin, a member of the campaign MMIW Who Is Missing and a Diné woman said, “The system is not made for us.” Shaniidin’s aunt was attacked and killed in her home. Shaniidin and her family have had no justice and are still mourning. She expressed her frustration by saying she felt like she, “can’t trust law enforcement.” There are thousands of stories of innocent women being taken too soon, and nothing is being done. Families are demanding answers, but police dismiss these cases or there simply is no investigation. Often times the families affected go without justice and closure.

The MMIW Who Is Missing group is an art and awareness campaign that uses murals, posters, and signs all covered in a vibrant and symbolic red as an outlet for sharing their stories. Their campaign and gatherings have given families of the deceased or missing a voice and a place to heal.

Jennifer Boyce, the Chair of the campaign MMIW + Utah, shared her story of having five relatives taken too soon. Boyce said, “I wish this wasn’t true. I wish this wasn’t a reality.” The MMIW + Utah campaign is specifically a place for people to share their stories and have a safe place where they can heal. The MMIW + Utah campaign has goals of making a database for Utah and is starting by helping Utah residents be aware of this issue.

It may seem that young people’s voices cannot be heard, but Boyce said, “It’s your future, you can shape it more than you think.” Students can help by understanding this problem and spreading awareness of this issue affecting Native American communities. To learn more and become involved follow both campaigns on instagram @mmiwhoismissing and @mmiwutah. No more stolen sisters, mothers, grandmothers, or aunts. No more missing indigenous women.