Unsolved Disappearance of Indigenous Women Is Based in Racism

Since 1900, 165 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women have been reported in California. There are thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) across the United States. For many years, authorities overlooked the crisis but now families and community members are demanding justice for crimes that they say stem from centuries of oppression.

The National Information Crime Center, a federal agency, has documented more than 5,000 cases of missing Indigenous women. Experts say the real number is likely higher. Eighty-four percent of Indigenous women experience some form of violence during their lifetimes while those living on reservations are killed at 10 times the national murder rate.  

Violence against Indigenous people has a long history, going back to the early days of colonization and extending to include slavery, land seizure, the forced removal of children from their families, and multiple massacres. In California, according to one of SBI’s reports, “historians estimate that as many as two out of three California Indians were killed in the two years following the [1849] discovery of gold.”

Native American families continue to contend with this “bloody legacy,” as the report calls it. Their daughters, sisters, and mothers are vulnerable, says Lucchesi, and predators know it. Police are less likely to investigate missing Indigenous women, known perpetrators are less likely to be prosecuted or convicted, and the media is less likely to cover MMIWG cases with the same alarm as those of missing white women.

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Posted by S. Jean Schafer

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