Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New study reveals lack of media attention in missing and murdered indigenous women

“The report confirms that the United States faces a crisis when it comes to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the lack of accurate data and appropriate media coverage has played a crucial role in the epidemic.”

Image Credit: Murray Bush, flux photo

According to a new report from the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), more than 500 indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been murdered across 71 American cities with almost no media coverage. The majority of the urban indigenous females ended up as murder victims.

On Wednesday, the UIHI released a report identifying 506 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls that went mostly unreported by the media. The report noted that 280 were murder cases, one hundred and twenty-eight were missing persons cases, and 98 had an unknown status.

The youngest victim was under one year old, and the oldest victim was 83 years old. One hundred and thirty-five cases were victims aged 18 or younger.

Forty-two of the cases were domestic violence related, eighteen victims were identified as sex workers or victims of trafficking, eight victims were identified as homeless, seven were victims of police brutality or death in custody, and six victims were murdered by a serial killer. The states with the highest number of cases included New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, and Alaska.

“Our women and our children, our girls, they hold such value within our communities,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, the chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board and the director of UIHI. “For us to let their deaths to just go unnoticed — for people not to know that we have missing women in our communities, for their voices not to be heard — to me was unacceptable.”

According to UIHI, nearly two-thirds of the law enforcement agencies surveyed either did not provide data for this study or provided partial data with significant compromises. The report also noted that the media ignored most of the missing persons cases and merely focused on several of the murder cases.

Shortly after the report was released, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for better data and reporting to help address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in urban Native areas. In October 2017, Warren was an original cosponsor of Savanna’s Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. The legislation seeks to improve the federal government’s response to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women through proper data collection and requires that tribal nations be consulted to ensure the most accurate improvements while providing access to these databases.

“This painstakingly-researched report is a much-needed wake-up call to policymakers and officials across the country,” Warren wrote. “The report confirms that the United States faces a crisis when it comes to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the lack of accurate data and appropriate media coverage has played a crucial role in the epidemic.”

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