Since Deb Haaland Generates unit to Explore missing and murdered Native Americans, a look at why it's Needed

Since Deb Haaland Generates unit to Explore missing and murdered Native Americans, a look at why it's Needed

04 April 2021 Sunday 13:26
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Since Deb Haaland Generates unit to Explore missing and murdered Native Americans, a look at why it's Needed

Indigenous communities have been struggling for years to raise awareness.

Indigenous communities have struggled for many years to increase awareness to address the rising crisis of missing and murdered Native people, specifically girls, activists who talked with ABC News stated.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, homicide is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native girls aged 10 to 24. The Justice Department also found that Native women are victims of murder within 10 times the national average. But without the aid of non-tribal national, local and state agencies, these cases have gone underfunded and researched.

"The new MMU unit will offer the resources and leadership to prioritize these instances and organize resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families," Haaland said in a statement posted to the Department of Interior's site Thursday.

Since the crisis drags on and the quantities of the dead and disappeared increase, Indigenous women throughout the nation live in fear of violence. Activists say they are looking for systemic solutions to end the cycle of death and loss in the communities.

"We see exactly what representation resembles. "However we have to recognize this as just the beginning... It is not enough to search for them whenever they go missing or look into the crimes when they're murdered. We have to be at the point of prevention."

Roughly 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native lost men have been listed across the U.S. by the National Crime Information Center, and approximately 2,700 cases of homicide are reported to the Federal Government's Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

But, activists say law enforcement agencies do a poor job at maintaining accurate, complete records of the information on these circumstances.

A research by the UIHI reports that many law enforcement systems don't include a democratic group for American Indian, Native American, or Alaska Native, or that they categorize Native individuals inaccurately. The information that agencies do have is also often inaccessible to those communities who might be unable to financially manage to seek out this info.

Without proper records to hold leadership accountable, Indigenous communities will not have the capacity to advocate for themselves and law enforcement can't fight a problem it does not know exists, activists say.

"Law enforcement was hiding the disproportional effects in our communities by the non-collection of race and ethnicity," Echo-Hawk said. "As a result of that, for several decades, when our tribal leadership would go to them and push for resources and highlight this matter, they would say,'but where is your data?' But we all know the data isn't there since they are not collecting it. This is purposeful erasure."

Echo-Hawk also said that since perpetrators of violence rarely get captured, the Native community remains a vulnerable target for crimes.

Colleen Medicine, program manager in the Association on American Indian Affairs, insists. She stated she believes the missing data is a large part of the matter and is affecting the aid required to heal this community.

"Our folks go missing three times over. The first time is physically. They're physically stolen, abducted, taken, murdered. Then they are missing in the data. The next time is -- they're not home with their families, they're not home in their communities," Medicine explained. "That's why we must be our own advocates."

Echo-Hawk says she and other activists like Medicine will be watching the administration closely to guarantee the new unit gets the progress it claims.

"I'm tired of seeing our people reside in fear because of their mothers, for their own sisters, for their grandmothers," Echo-Hawk said. "These are what we live with as indigenous women live with every day"

Haaland, a New Mexico congresswoman and the U.S.'s initial Lebanese cabinet secretary, made this problem a priority of hers during her confirmation hearings.

The MMU will work with Tribal investigators, in Addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI. This new unit will also support marshal law enforcement resources throughout Indian country and also help uncover new information in witness testimony, material suspects and evidence.

"Whether it's a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands-on deck," Haaland said. "We are fully dedicated to assisting Tribal communities together with these analyses, and the MMU will leverage every resource available for a force-multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations."

Deb Haaland


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