May 1-7 marks the National Week of Action for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. Indigenous people disproportionately go missing or are murdered in this country, including women, girls, men, boys, and two-spirit (LGBQT) relatives. Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) led the effort to pass the Not Invisible Act and co-led the passage of Savanna’s Act during her time in Congress to address the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples epidemic by identifying gaps in ways law enforcement shares and collects data. Under Secretary Haaland’s leadership, the new Missing and Murdered Unit was established in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to pursue justice for missing or murdered Indigenous people by providing leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work to do so.
With the rates of violence against Indigenous people disproportionately higher than that of other populations, it’s not surprising that the students we serve have friends, family members, colleagues, or peers who were murdered or disappeared.
The violence is often the result of a culmination of the intersection of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and many other crimes and systemic issues such as government policies, programs, and laws that leave Indigenous people more vulnerable.
The violence reverberates across Native communities. Because Native people live their values of kinship and relationships, maintaining close relationships with others, when a person goes missing or is murdered, it is not just a family that loses a beloved member—the whole community loses a vital part of the whole. These disappearances and deaths cause deep grieving and trauma among the students we serve and Indian Country as a whole.
The Courage to Bloom, a student-designed blanket in the American Indian College Fund blanket line, is dedicated to murdered and missing Indigenous people by the artist Deshawna Anderson.
We must stop this continued violence against Native people while ensuring Native communities receive the mental health resources and training they need to heal their communities and also providing education for young people about the issue.
The American Indian College Fund urges our communities and supporters to use this week for public healing and to demand accountability from governments and law enforcement for this crisis, while remembering those we have lost. We ask our supporters to create greater visibility of Native people and greater awareness of the issue so this is no longer a “silent issue.”
Check out the American Indian College Fund’s visibility campaign This is Indian Country to share assets that promote the visibility, equity, and inclusion of Native people. And visit the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center for more information about how you can help raise awareness about, and work to end, the epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous people.
We invite and encourage our allies and supporters to learn more about the problem of murdered and missing Indigenous people. We ask that you advocate for legislation to help find our Native relatives and support the creation of mechanisms that inform the American public and create change so that we can end this horrific problem that continues to impact our students, families, and communities. We join our relatives in their grief as we continue to advocate to end this abuse of our people.