Congressional Briefing on Missing and Murdered American Indian and Alaska Native Women

February 13, 2017 | Washington, D.C. — The reported rates of abduction and murder of American Indian women and girls are alarming and represent one of the most severe aspects in the spectrum of violence committed against Native women. A congressional briefing, Moving Ahead In Addressing Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Efforts to Address Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, on Wednesday, February 15th  from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., in the Senate Hart Building, Room 902, will give an overview on this issue.  

Often, disappearances or murders are connected to crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, or sex trafficking. “American Indian and Alaska Native women often suffer multiple forms of discrimination and disproportionate violence, and they are murdered and disappear at extraordinary rates, because of their gender and because they are indigenous,” said Jana L. Walker, a senior attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC) and director of its Safe Women, Strong Nations project. “We need our federal government to take action now to end this intolerable situation.”

One action is to create a national day of awareness to help bring attention to these tragic, often undocumented crimes. This week, Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester will reintroduce a resolution calling for a “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.”

“In Alaska, the disappearances of a Native women is of grave concern. We receive calls from the families of missing Native women who are in crisis and traumatized,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director, Alaska Native Women's Resource Center. “I hope this resolution will increase awareness and alert villages and programs to develop protocols for an immediate response. I hope it will inform the criminal justice system's response to view a disappearance for what it is-- extremely dangerous."

The resolution was first introduced last June, 2016, in memory of Hanna Harris, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member murdered in 2013. Nearly 200 tribal, national, and state organizations have supported this resolution, which calls for designating May 5, 2017 as a day to honor the lives of those missing and murdered and demonstrate solidarity with families that have lost a loved one through violence. Both Senators will be at the briefing to speak about the resolution.

“Turning our grief to action we strongly support the resolution calling for a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls to help increase awareness and shed light on the countless tragedies involving our Native sisters,” said Cherrah Giles, Chairwoman of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) Board of Directors.    

“American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director of NIWRC. “The harsh reality of our lives as Native women is that our sisters, mothers, daughters, and community members disappear and nothing is done. This must change.” 

The NIWRC, the ILRC, and the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center are co-sponsoring the briefing in cooperation with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The agenda for the briefing includes remarks by Senator Murkowski; Terri Henry, Co-Chair of the National Congress of American Indians Task Force on Violence Against Women; Tami Truett Jerue, Director of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center; and Amanda Takes War Bonnet, Public Education Specialist of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. Cherrah Giles will provide closing remarks. Senator Daines and Senator Tester will speak during the briefing about the resolution.

The briefing is open to the public but is limited to 70 attendees who are required to register.