By Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
May 1, 2023
Currently, in the United States, there are nearly 23,000 people reported missing from tribal lands. Of those, approximately 700 are reported missing from Oklahoma, according to data from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Let that sink in for a moment. Someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, brother or sister vanishes without a trace.
It is a daily occurrence with a frequency on tribal lands that is startling, to say the least. Due to the vast area that tribal lands cover, response to missing persons reports can be challenging for law enforcement. For example, federal prosecutors have primary criminal jurisdiction for 70 million acres of tribal lands spanning 200 Native American country territories.
Tackling the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women and girls is an imperative issue that demands mutual respect and collaboration in working together with tribal nations. According to the FBI, approximately 75% of the crimes investigated on tribal lands involve homicide, rape, violent assaults, or child abuse.
On May 5, 2021, through efforts from various Native advocates, tribal leaders, and government officials, President Biden signed the proclamation that May 5 is “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.” The proclamation is designed to bring awareness to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous victims and shed light on the investigation and apprehension of criminals. It is also a day of hope that missing people may return to their families and continue with their lives.
MMIW: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
The US declared May 5, 2018, as a national day of awareness in order to raise concern for the crisis, and refocus attention on issues affecting Indigenous women.
What is the MMIW Movement (WEARENATIVE)? MMIW stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It’s a movement that advocates for the end of violence against Native women. It also seeks to draw attention to the high rates of disappearances and murders of Native people, particularly women and girls.
Here is a snapshot of data for MMIW in 2018: