National Day of Awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls
Today is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Howard Brown Health condemns the national crisis of MMIWG, and we stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities in honoring the memory of those lost to violence. May 5 was the birthday of Hanna Harris of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Hanna was reported missing and later found murdered in 2013. Her disappearance was not initially taken seriously by authorities, wasting precious hours to rescue Hanna. Since her death, indigenous communities and advocates have honored her memory annually on May 5 through efforts to raise awareness and spur change around the epidemic of MMIWG in the United States.
In 2016, the National Institute of Justice conducted a study to better understand violence against Native American communities in the U.S. The study found that a staggering 84.3% of Native American women, more than 1.5 million women total, experienced violence—including sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and psychological aggression—in their lifetime. The study also found that Native American women were 1.7 times more likely to experience violence in the past year compared to non-Hispanic white women. Overall, homicide rates are 3.1 times higher for Native American populations compared to non-Hispanic white populations. The National Crime Information Center reported that there were 5,295 cases of missing Native American women and girls in 2020. Unfortunately, these statistics are likely an underrepresentation of violence against Native American people, and specifically the crisis of MMIWG, due to lack of data collection and systemic bias against Native American communities.
Native Americans have long been the targets of hate violence and discrimination, stemming back to the violent colonization of Indigenous land and subsequent neglect of tribal jurisdictions by the federal government. This historical and unresolved trauma continues to impact and exacerbate health inequities experienced by Native American people to this day. Chronic underfunding of health, social service, and infrastructure initiatives for Indigenous communities has resulted in disparities in chronic disease, healthcare access, and social determinants of health including poverty, food security, and adverse childhood experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these stark disparities, with Native American people experiencing 3.5 times higher hospitalization rates and 2.4 times higher death rates from COVID-19 compared to non-Hispanic white people.
As we recognize the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG, it is important to spread awareness about the disparities affecting Indigenous communities that are rooted in colonialism and structural racism. Howard Brown is committed to advancing health equity for Indigenous communities and all the other underserved communities that we provide care for. If you would like to learn more about the crisis of MMIWG and actions that you can take to show solidarity, please see the following resources:
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: Works to end violence against American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty
- Urban Indian Health Institute Report on MMIWG: Examines cases of MMIWG in cities across the U.S., including Chicago.
- Our Sisters In Spirit: A short documentary that explores the MMIWG crisis in Canada