West indian people

Washington Creates First Statewide Alert System for Missing Native Americans

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) on Thursday signed a bill to create the United States’ first statewide alert system for missing Natives.

The big picture: Native American women experience higher rates of violence than most other women, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in an October report. They are murdered at rates more than 10 times the national average.

How it works: The alert will disseminate information about missing women and Indigenous people on message boards, in roadside warning radio messages, on social media, and in press releases to local and regional media.

  • The state currently operates several alert systems, including silver alerts for vulnerable missing persons who are often elderly.
  • Although the alert system covers all missing Indigenous people, the legislation notes that “the crisis began as a women’s issue, and it remains primarily a women’s issue.”

What they say : “The unheard-of cries of the missing and murdered will be heard across Washington State with the implementation of the Missing and Murdered Native Women’s Alert (MMIW) system,” said state Rep. Debra Lekanoff ( D), which sponsored the bill, in a statement. after it was passed by the legislature earlier this month.

  • “Too many Indigenous mothers, sisters, wives and daughters have been torn from their families and their children raised without a mother. This crisis affects every one of our families and communities and it takes collaboration across all governing bodies, law enforcement and the media to raise awareness and stop these horrific crimes.”

The big picture: The actual number of missing Indigenous people is unknown due to under-reporting and data collection issues, jurisdictional disputes, and tensions between law enforcement and Indigenous communities.

  • Urban Indian Health Institute director Abigal Echo-Hawk told PBS Newshour last year that police database systems are often blank by default if officers aren’t collecting information on the race and ethnicity.
  • UHI has also found that local police often dismiss reports based on age-old stereotypes and biases, such as believing an Indigenous woman ran away because she was drunk or sex work, Echo said. -Hawk.
  • Disagreements over who has jurisdiction over the case — the federal government, the state or tribal nations — are still dragging out investigations.
  • Because of these jurisdictional issues, tribal nations often lack the authority to criminally prosecute non-natives who commit crimes, even if the crimes occur on their land.

What to watch: Washington State convened a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Peoples Task Force to coordinate a statewide response to the crisis.

  • Interior Secretary Debra Haaland also created a unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to support investigations into missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.


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