This week the Seattle City Council took a bold step when they adopted detailed resolution that both acknowledged and promised to address the national epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Although the resolution does not yet allocate a specific budget – next year’s budget will be address by city council next month – it does call for “hiring a special liaison, investing in human services, consulting with tribal governments, improving data collection and training police,” reports The Seattle Times.
“We will be invisible no more,” said sponsor Councilmember Debora Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation. “This is just the beginning and our very first step in making sure that when we lose our women and children, somebody will be there to go look for them.”
Seattle has had more cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls than any other U.S. city, revealed a report published last year that used research from 71 U.S. cities. The city has identified 46 cases since 1943 but as the epidemic has been fueled by a lack of oversight, accountability, and quality data, the numbers are likely “much higher.”
Washington state as a whole currently has 56 Native women listed as missing, with 12 in King County where Seattle is located. Violence against indigenous women is so heavily prominent, a 2010 survey found that “94% of women who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native living in Seattle reported they had been raped or coerced into sex at least once.”
Seattle City Council was urged by more than a dozen Native women from nearby tribes to “show the rest of the country the way.” Women and leaders from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Seattle Indian Health Board shared their personal stories of their own missing and murdered relatives to highlight the pervasive problem.
“Your stories have broken through,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw after the council voted in favor of the resolution.
According to The Seattle Times:
Seattle’s resolution, which Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to sign, says the council and mayor will work together and with the SIHB to carry out research, provide services and collect data related to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
The measure says the city will consult with tribes and other local Native organizations to develop a new consultation policy, with a report by the Durkan administration due to the council nearly next year.
It also says the city will create a new police-liaison position “to build relationships and increase trust and engagement” between the Seattle Police Department and Native communities.
The resolution also calls in improvements within the Police Department in terms of faster response times for cases involving indigenous women, new guidelines for interjurisdictional cooperation among law-enforcement agencies, added protection orders for Native people, culturally appropriate victim services, and a review of past cases for Native victims.
Four out of five Native women are affected by violence in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average, with homicide being the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 and 34 years of age.