Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives
84% of Native women and girls experience violence in their lifetime and 56% will experience sexual violence. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native women and girls aged 10-24. 82% of Native men and boys will experience violence in their lifetime. These rates are the highest in the United States for any group of people. Native women face murder rates that are 10 times the national average. And we know that this violence is underreported, and data collection is lacking, particularly for those native people who identify as two-spirit, LGBTQI, and/or non-binary.
While domestic violence is a problem in every community, 86% of violence against Native women and girls is perpetrated by non-Native people, a historical legacy that begins in 1492 with violent European colonization and genocide. In most instances, if a crime is committed by a non-tribal member against a tribal member on tribal land, the tribe does not have jurisdiction to prosecute, but instead the state or federal government would have jurisdiction. In some states, the jurisdiction gets even more complicated with various overlapping tribal, state, and federal laws. Thankfully, the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act expanded tribal jurisdiction over certain crimes related to domestic violence like sexual assault and child abuse when the perpetrator is a non-tribal member. We have yet to see how this will have an impact on rates of violence.
Most federal legislation and action taken related to missing and murdered Indigenous relatives are focused on federally recognized tribes and reservations. According to census data, most people identifying as Native live outside tribal lands in urban areas. They have access to federal victim resources, like everyone, but it is difficult for them to gain access to culturally specific resources as they tend to be disconnected from their tribal community. There is also not enough data to determine if rates of violence against Native people are different on and off tribal lands.
What we do know is that Indigenous people living in the United States are marginalized and, like other marginalized communities, are at a higher risk of violence, poverty, and exploitation. When we work to end violence perpetrated against these marginalized communities, we work to end it for everyone. You can start by recognizing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day on May 5, finding and supporting your local indigenous groups and groups focused on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives movement (#MMIR), speaking up against racist stereotypes and native mascots, and/or providing support to your local women’s shelter.
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out:
- Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988, 988lifeline.org
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233, thehotline.org
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673, rainn.org
- Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860, translifeline.org
- LGBT National Help Center: 1-888-843-4564, glnh.org
Rebekah Choate is the Minister for Global Advocacy and Education for Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ
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