PRESS & MEDIA
PRESS & MEDIA
#NotInvisible: Amidst MMIW Erasure, Activists Shine a Light on the Crisis of Violence Against Native Women
Pictured: Mary Weasel Bear taking part in the MMIW Bike-Run USA 2021 in Kansas City to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Mary has recently been raising awareness in communities across the country about the MMIW crisis. Picture credits to Luke X. Martin and KCUR.
While missing persons cases involving white women often receive national attention, the stories of the more than 5,700 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) across the country often remain overlooked by news media and law enforcement. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Indigenous women in certain areas of the US are 10 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered than any other demographic, and the perpetrators of these crimes often face no conviction.
Despite their increased risk of experiencing violence, Indigenous women who are missing or murdered receive significantly less media coverage than female white victims of violence, and there is still no official data count on the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States. This crisis also extends into Canada's Indigenous communities, and the term Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) has been used to include the girls, men, and two-spirit Indigenous people affected by violence across the continent.
Pictured: The RV which traveled with the participants of the MMIW Bike-Run USA 2021. Written in red on the RV are the names of 319 Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls, and men. Our gratitude to Mary Weasel Bear for providing the picture.
In an effort to bring awareness to the violence and invisibility faced by MMIW, Duane Garvais Lawrence launched the second annual MMIW Bike-Run USA in mid-July of this year. Runners, cyclists, and supporters on the journey made their way from Washington state to the nation’s Capital, where the Bike-Run came to a close last Friday. We recently caught up with Mary Weasel Bear, who traveled with the Bike-Run from South Dakota to Washington D.C. She told us about her experience and the spirit of remembrance that motivates her to advocate for MMIW:
“For me, it's really important because I lost my friend.” Mary was inspired to join the cross-country bike-run in order to honor her friend Lakota Renville. Lakota was found murdered in 2005, and her name adorns the RV pictured above, alongside the names of many more victims of violence against Indigenous people. “I feel obligated to her mother to help find justice for my friend,” Mary said of her motivation to advocate for the investigation of Lakota’s case and the cases of all MMIW. She feels that if resources had been dedicated to finding her friend in the same way that they are devoted to the search for missing white women, Lakota may have been found sooner. Mary also biked in honor of her sister-in-law, Susan Fast Eagle-Chief Eagle, who has been missing from Rapid City, SD since May 2021.
Pictured: Mary Weasel Bear’s friend Lakota Renville, who was found murdered in Kansas City in 2005, and Mary’s sister-in-law, Susan Lacee Fast Eagle-Chief Eagle, who has been missing from Rapid City, SD since May 2021.
The federal government has recently undertaken efforts to address this crisis and begin tracking related data. Two bills signed into law in October 2020, Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act, aim to increase coordination between tribal, state, and federal law enforcement, to require the collection of data on MMIW, and to allocate more resources to tribal governments for the investigation of MMIW cases. Deb Haaland, US Secretary of the Interior and member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, has also created a Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But with so many cases continuing to go unsolved, under-investigated by law enforcement, and underreported in the media, activists have highlighted the importance of continued efforts to protect Native women and to raise public awareness around this issue.
As Mary Weasel Bear told us: “There’s 6,000 families out there wondering about their loved ones. It’s about time America wakes up and acknowledges it.” Thank you, Mary, for sharing your insight on this topic and for the work you are doing to advocate for MMIW.
Last week, we highlighted the MMIW Bike-Run on our social media channels and, in an effort to continue to bring awareness to this topic, we will be holding an online conversation with Mary Weasel Bear about MMIW on Wednesday, October 27th. Use this link to join or to call in: 1 669 900 6833 Use Passcode: 873683
Additional resources on the MMIW crisis listed below.
On the current epidemic of violence against Indigenous people and the invisibility faced by MMIW/MMIP:
“#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?” from The Associated Press:
“No one knows how many Native women are murdered each year. That makes deaths hard to stop.” from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/no-one-knows-how-many-indigenous-women-are-murdered-each-n1277565
“As Petito case captivates U.S., missing Native women ignored” from Reuters:
"Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls," a report from the Urban Indian Health Institute on the MMIW crisis and institutional practices that make them invisible in life, in the media, and in data:
On the MMIW-Bike-Run USA 2021, which came to a close last Friday:
“MMIW relay passes through Rosebud on way to Washington” from Indian Country Today:
"Native American Runners Honor A Kansas City Murder Victim On Their Months-Long Journey To D.C." from KCUR: https://www.kcur.org/news/2021-09-23/native-american-runners-honor-a-kansas-city-murder-victim-on-their-months-long-journey-to-d-c
Organizations leading the way for change in the ongoing MMIW crisis:
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA https://mmiwusa.org/
Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women https://www.csvanw.org/mmiw
Not Our Native Daughters https://www.notournativedaughters.org/
Sovereign Bodies Institute https://www.sovereign-bodies.org/
Sources for this blog post include: Coverage of this topic from The Spokesman-Review and Native News Online, PBS Newshour, NBC News, Reuters, and the Department of the Interior, as well as statistics shared by the Department of Justice and Native Women's Wilderness
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