Thousands of indigenous women and girls in the United States of America and Canada have been murdered and disappeared without a trace. While the indigenous nations have sought help from the Federal Government in Washington DC to help protect their women, it’s fallen on deaf ears.
But this year one indigenous politician, New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, is hoping to wake the world up to this devastating reality.
“The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women has been my top priority since long before being sworn into Congress,” she said during a hearing earlier this year.
“Indigenous women deserve to be protected just like anyone else in this country.”
2016 Statistics from the National Crime Information Centre in the United States showed more than 5000 indigenous women had been murdered or disappeared completely. Of those, 116 were reported and documented by the Department of Justice.
Native American Women are ten times more likely to be murdered and 84 per cent experience violence in their lifetime.
Contributing factors to the issue are that many reservations are isolated with no access to technology; tribal law enforcement authorities are dangerously understaffed and under-resourced; and violence against Native American women tends to go unnoticed on a national level.
Rally organiser Lowa Beebe said, “A modern form of genocide is happening here and what does that say about our country.”
One First Nations girl who murdered was Tina Fontaine in August 2014. Her case is considered among the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada and renewed calls by activists for the government to conduct a national inquiry into the issue.
A woman at the rally following the court case said, “We all feel it because it could have been our daughter. It could have been our granddaughter. We don't want this to continue. We want it to stop.”
Another woman said, “It might not be this accused person who took her life but someone took her life. That fact remains and we must get to the bottom of it.
Although a number of Bills have almost passed into law providing more protection, Republican protests have caused major delays.
Halaand said, “Representative Sensenbrenner attempted to amend the bill, exclude tribes from prosecuting non-Indians who commit violence against woman related crimes against women on tribal lands…Although this corrosive amendment was rejected the vote was split across party lines and speaks exactly to the issue we are working to highlight today.”
While a group has been established by President Trump to look into the matter the trust the people have in him and his selection may hinder progress.
In the meantime, indigenous people will continue to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.