First Two Native Women Serving in Congress Call Congress’ Attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Crisis on National Awareness Day

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Albuquerque, N.M. – Today, Congresswomen Deb Haaland (NM-01) and Sharice Davids (Kans.-03) called Congress’ attention to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls crisis with a U.S. House resolution. The U.S. Department of Justice has found that in some tribal communities, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average. The resolution expresses support for the designation of May 5, 2020 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which honors missing and murdered Indigenous women, increases national awareness, and demands change at the tribal, federal and state levels.

“We're living through tough times right now, but it's not going to stop us from highlighting the need to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls,” said Representative Deb Haaland. “On this national day of awareness, my sister in the fight Representative Sharice Davids and I are calling on our colleagues to support the bills we’ve put forward to address this crisis so that we have a comprehensive approach to keeping indigenous people safe from violence and disappearing without a trace.”

“Native women and girls experience disproportionate and extreme rates of violence – a crisis that has devastated our communities and has been neglected for too long. I’m proud to work alongside my sister Representative Deb Haaland to raise awareness about the silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and put forward proactive solutions to keep Native women and girls safe,” said Representative Sharice Davids.

Since they were elected to office, Haaland and Davids have worked with their colleagues on solutions to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across the country including holding forums, hearings, and introducing groundbreaking legislation.

Most recently the Not Invisible Act, the first bill in history to be introduced by four members of federally recognized tribes Representatives Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation), passed the House Judiciary Committee and awaits passage on the House Floor. Not Invisible Act would establish an advisory committee on violent crime comprised of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, and survivors to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice. The bill also seeks to establish best practices for law enforcement on combatting the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and would create a position for an expert within the Bureau of Indian Affairs charged with improving coordination of violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies.

The House Resolution recognizing National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is also cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer, Grace F. Napolitano, Tom Cole, Kendra Horn, Tom O’Halleran, Greg Stanton, Rick Larsen, Karen Bass, David Joyce, Ron Kind, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Ruben Gallego, Gwen Moore, Paul Cook, Alcee L. Hastings, Markwayne Mullin, Xochitl Torres Small, Mark Pocan, Suzan K. DelBene, and Betty McCollum.

Full text of the resolution is available here.

The U.S. House resolution is supported by a broad spectrum of Tribes, tribal organizations and leaders, law enforcement, advocates, and women’s groups. Full list of endorsing organizations is available here.

“WomenSpirit Coalition in WA State has been addressing MMIW issues since its founding in 2002, increasing awareness and understanding of the proliferation of missing and murdered Indian women in the US and Alaska. We stand in support of this proclamation for National MMIW Day.” - Dee Koester MS, Founder and Executive Director, WomenSpirit Coalition-WA State Native American Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

“Indigenous women and children are 2.5 times more likely to experience violent crime and at least 2 times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault compared to any other group in the United States. As law enforcement officers, we must fight for justice for these Americans in need. Join us in supporting a Congressional Resolution mandating May 5 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” - National President Larry Cosme, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association 

“For our Native sisters who are missing and murdered, we need every person to take a stand and join in the effort calling for justice. We are grateful for our Native sisters, Representative Haaland and Representative Davids for continuing to amplify awareness of the MMIW crisis in the United States Congress. Their efforts highlight the chronic lack of federal funding to tribal governments to adequately address this crisis, including resources for public safety, victim services, and emergency services on tribal lands. The United States must answer the calls of Native families, advocates, and tribes to fulfill the federal trust responsibility to assist Indian Tribes in safeguarding the lives of Native women and addressing the MMIW crisis with meaningful, lasting reforms.” - National Indigenous Women's Resource Center 

“The Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence (Alliance), a Native led and organized nonprofit organization established in 2013 by and for tribal coalition directors, works to advance tribal sovereignty and the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women by providing support to tribal coalitions and tribal communities in their efforts to address equal justice for survivors of violence. The Alliance stands in solidarity with Congresswomen Haaland and Davids as we honor the families of our murdered and missing relatives and seek to increase the awareness of and enhance the response to violence against women at the Federal, State and Tribal levels.” - Dawn R. Stover, Executive Director, Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence

"I support the forthcoming legislation sponsored by Rep. Haaland and Rep. Davids that continues to support May 5th as the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG. Missing & Murdered Diné Relatives is a Navajo grassroots collective that believes in taking a holistic approach to this crisis and we implore congressional leadership to take the necessary steps to increase federal support for anti-trafficking efforts, domestic violence programs, shelters, victim advocates, and community-based groups who have been entrenched in this work for several years. We recognize that our indigenous women and girls are violently perpetrated against at significantly higher rates, however we must also acknowledge our trans and two-spirit relatives who are also victimized, have gone missing, and are brutally targeted – we need to include these folks in the national conversation. Áhéhee' (thank you)!" - Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, member of 24th Navajo Nation Council and Chairwoman for the Naabik'íyáti' Sexual Assault Prevention Subcommittee

“This House Resolution succinctly states the problems faced by families and their tribes when the family member/tribal member is lost, including the great emotional lost experienced by the families and tribes. It is the hope of The Montana Native Women’s Coalition that this Resolution will spur further action to assist those who have been lost to violence or abducted in addition to their families and tribes.” - Jean Bearcrane, Executive Director, The Montana Native Women's Coalition

“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, another devastating epidemic continues to ravage Indian Country. Tribal Nations are still battling this crisis—the preventable loss of our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, and friends—and yet, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) remains expired. As Native peoples, our creator calls upon us to honor and respect the many sacred roles women and girls play in our societies, as well as protect their basic human right to live free of violence. During this chaotic time, it is critically important that we do not lose sight of the thousands of missing and murdered Native women and girls, as the federal government has done through its shameful inaction and failure to honor its obligations. We hold them in our hearts today and always, and will continue to fight to achieve justice for them and their families. On this National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, USET SPF calls upon the U.S. Senate to end its political impasse and reauthorize VAWA with a Tribal title that promotes and advances the exercise of our inherent sovereignty.” - Chief Kirk Francis, President, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund

“A day to remember Indigenous people who are missing and murdered is very important. It’s a day to reflect on the lives of the many who have experienced such a terrible tragedy. It reminds us how critical it is to stay focused on solutions to these crimes against Indigenous people both on and off Tribal Nations in the U.S.” - Yolanda Francisco-Nez, Executive Director, Restoring Ancestral Winds, Inc., Restoring Ancestral Winds, Inc.

“The rates of MMIWG is the highest in the nation! We need justice!” - Lenora Hootch, Executive Director, Yup'ik Women's Coalition

“We stand in support and solidarity for the designation of May 5th, 2020 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Native women, Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to experience violent crimes and at least twice as likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes compared to any other demographic. These numbers are shocking, devastating and unacceptable. We must refuse to turn a blind eye to any of these women, especially in the face of a brutal pandemic, which is having a devastating impact on Indigenous communities. We can do so much more to protect these women and girls, and raising awareness of this horrific trend is a critical first step." - Shaunna Thomas, Co-Founder and Executive Director, UltraViolet

“We are thankful to Congresswomen Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids for their dedication to keeping the MMIWG crisis at the forefront, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need leaders who will continue to identify solutions to protect our Indigenous women and girls, and we are fortunate that the leadership is coming from Native women.” - Esther Lucero (Diné), Chief Executive Officer of Seattle Indian Health Board

"Restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made some people even more vulnerable to domestic violence and other correlating factors that, in the past, has led to our Native women and girls to go missing or murdered. Together, we are all part of a movement, and during this critical time, we need to see the leadership of Representatives Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids replicated if we are going to see meaningful change.” - Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Director of Urban Indian Health Institute and co-author of two groundbreaking MMIWG reports that raised issues around the collection of data in urban Indian and tribal communities

“Through unity we will strengthen our voices and build resources to create awareness and eliminate sexual violence against Indigenous women and children. We will vigorously apply our efforts toward influencing social change and reclaim our traditional values that honor the sovereignty of Indigenous women and children.” - Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC)

“The Wabanaki Women's Coalition is a Tribal Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition serving the five tribal Advocacy Centers in Maine. We join our sister Tribal coalitions all across Indian Country in bringing attention to the high numbers of missing and murdered Native American women and girls that has not and do not receive appropriate response from law enforcement and the media. We are asking that the Federal Government greatly increase the resources needed to investigate these reports of missing Native girls and women swiftly and thoroughly.” - Jane Root, Executive Director,Wabanaki Women's Coalition

“Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women continues to be a real problem in our tribal communities. I was raised by powerful women, and their guidance has molded me through a lifetime of appreciation and respect for our women and the responsibilities they carry in life. Their role in my life serves as the pillars of strength, determination and success. It is our sacred trust as Indian men to ensure the safety of our Indigenous women. It in no way compares to what our women do for us as birth givers of our people. We must continue to stand together for the collective human rights of our Indigenous Women, to ensure that they are protected at all costs.” - Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association 

“Equipping tribal governments with emergency access to spectrum is an imperative first step in ensuring tribal governments can meet the most immediate distance learning and healthcare needs of our members during this pandemic." - Chief Michael Conners of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and member of FCC’s Native Nations Communication Task Force

“Tribal access to spectrum is not just about access to critical infrastructure, but more importantly about tribal governments filling in gaps in broadband services in areas where larger telecom entities often leave Indian Country behind. We look forward to working with Congress to enact this legislation.” - Allyson Mitchell, General Manager at Mohawk Networks, a tribal telecom and IT provider fully owned and operated by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe