Associated Press Video: Death and Disappearance in Indian Country

Associated Press runs series on 'Missing in Indian Country'

The Associated Press has published a series of stories on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Missing in Indian Country focuses on cases like those of Ashley HeavyRunner Loring. The 20-year-old citizen of the Blackfeet Nation went missing in Montana in June 2017. Family members are still looking for her.

"I don't want to search until I'm 80. But if I have to, I will," older sister Kimberly tells the AP.

Similar stories have been collected throughout Indian Country, the AP notes, with indigenous women and girls of all ages and from all types of backgrounds affected. Tribal advocates complain there is little attention paid to what many have described as an epidemic.

"Our people go missing at an alarming rate, and we would not hear about many of these cases without Facebook," Sadie Young Bird, the executive director of victim services for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, says in a tribal consultation report compiled by the Department of Justice.

The AP notes that Congress has taken action to address high rates of crime in Indian Country and high rates of victimization of Native women, data for which goes back nearly two decades and has been repeatedly confirmed. The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, for example, authorizes tribes to impose stronger sentences on offenders. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 includes landmark provisions that recognize tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who abuse their partners.

But only recently have the federal government and states begun to look at missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, the AP points out. Trafficking in Indian Country is also a newer focus.

"Violence against Native American women has not been prosecuted," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), the sponsor of a bill named after Savanna Marie Greywind, a citizen of the Spirit Lake Nation who went missing and murdered in North Dakota, tells the AP.

"We have not really seen the urgency in closing cold cases. We haven't seen the urgency when someone goes missing," Heitkamp says. "We don't have the clear lines of authority that need to be established to prevent these tragedies."

Read More on the Story
#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing? (The Associated Press September 5, 2018)
Haunting stories behind missing posters of Native women (The Associated Press September 5, 2018)
Despite past reforms, Native women face high rates of crime (The Associated Press September 5, 2018)
Feds, state lawmakers propose new ways to help Native women (The Associated Press September 5, 2018)

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