It’s Time to Act on Behalf of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Date: 04/27/2022Help confront the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) by reading up, telling your senators to vote for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act, and asking the Department of Justice to to follow through with full and thorough implementation of Savanna’s Act.

Han Mitakuyepi. For far too long, our Indigenous women have gone missing at alarming rates across Turtle Island. This week is the National Week of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), and Lakota People’s Law Project stands in solidarity with the groups and organizations that have been spearheading the fight to end this epidemic. Bringing awareness to policy advocacy is crucial to holding governmental officials accountable when addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Please take action on behalf of Indigenous women, right now. Tell your senators to authorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act (FVPSIA) and encourage the Department of Justice to follow through with full and thorough implementation of Savanna’s Act today.

For the past several years, a coalition of organizations has worked with congressional leaders to draft and introduce an enhanced, reauthorized version of FVPSIA — which provides federal funding for services to federally recognized tribes. That includes support for childcare and services for children, safety planning, counseling, legal, career planning, life skills training, public and community education, shelter, and help — like clothing, food, and transportation — for victims of domestic violence.

The House of Representatives has passed this bill, but the Senate has yet to do so. And while this provision of funding for crucial services to tribal communities is critical, on its own, it isn’t enough. Coupling those elements with the support provided by Savanna’s Act is paramount. Named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a Spirit Lake citizen who was brutally murdered at just 22 years old in 2017 while eight months pregnant, Savanna’s Act mandates provisions to increase effectiveness in data collection and training for law enforcement personnel and community outreach.

The MMIW epidemic has rarely been acknowledged properly, which is part of why this week of action is so important. Data are lacking, to say the least, and our women are seemingly invisible. Despite passage of Savanna’s Act alongside the Not Invisible Act in 2020, there are no indications that the Department of Justice is implementing the provisions of Savanna’s Act in a timely fashion. It is time to hold government officials accountable for their obligations.

The statistics on our stolen and murdered sisters are staggering. According to Native Women’s Wilderness, the murder rate of indigenous women is three times higher than Anglo-American women. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women. More than 84 percent of Indigenous women have experienced violence, and well over half will experience sexual violence.

As I am an Indigenous woman, this issue leaves my heart aching. Our sisters are going missing, and there just isn’t enough being done to solve this crisis. With so many of our people living in remote areas, and with our current state of disorganization and lack of accurate reporting, it is far too easy to place a target on our Indigenous women’s backs, and many victims remain invisible. I cannot stress enough the importance of enhancing and solidifying policies that protect our women from violence and death.

Let’s continue to look out for one another and put pressure on governing bodies to do right by Indigenous women. Too many have been taken, and in their honor, we take this stand.