In an effort to combat the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, specialists are leading free training sessions on how to use the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) at reservations throughout the country.
This past week Assistant U.S. Attorney and member of Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force Jared Cobell led a training session at the Blackfeet Community College. “Everybody can access this system. It’s not just for law enforcement,” Cobell said. “All of us can input things into NamUs. If you’re missing a relative or friend, you can create a profile for them, where you can add details and photos of them. And then others can search for that person, too.”
NamUs is a free national resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases in the United States. It includes free and secure technology, forensic services (such as fingerprint and DNA analyses), and investigative support from staff. Although people are able to enter their own public information about a missing person case on the public side of NamUs, the information must be vetted and verified before it is made accessible to the public.
In the United States, indigenous men and especially women go missing at disproportionate rates. In 2016 alone there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls. In places such as Montana where Native Americans only make up 6.6% of Montana’s population, indigenous people make up 25% of the reported missing cases.
What’s more, cases of missing indigenous people are often unreported. If they are reported, jurisdictional obstacles and poor resources often get in the way of any real progress being made, leaving families to search for their loved ones on their own. People such as Cobell believe that by providing training for people to use NamUs hopefully more people can utilize the system to find answers.
NamUs will continue throughout the month to host free training sessions at Rocky Boy’s, Fore Belknap, and Fort Peck reservations.