No More Stolen Sisters

Shiloh Stephen, Staff Reporter

Across the United States and Canada, Native American women and girls are being taken and murdered at an unrelenting rate. There is widespread anger and sadness in communities, especially First Nations (Canadian Indigenous people). Mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters are disappearing from their families without any explanation. 

Cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people have been around for decades, it has become a more relevant topic since the discovery of hundreds of native children found buried under Canadian Catholic residential boarding schools. The bodies of the children were found by researchers using ground-penetrating radars when they were searching the ground area of the school.  Residential schools undermined Indigenous people in Canada and disrupted families for generations, severing the ties through which Indigenous culture is taught and sustained, contributing to a general loss of language and culture.

According to Native American Wilderness and Native Hope, Native people make up only 2% of the population in the United States of America and statistics show the murder rate for Indigenous women is ten times higher than the average American woman. Murder is also the third leading cause of death for Native women.  One of the most difficult things when learning the truth about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) is that statistics are extremely hard to come by. Native American Wilderness also made an investigation and found that out of the 5,712 cases reported of missing and murdered Indigenous women focused primarily on people living off reservations or native land, only 116 of those cases were included in the US Department of Justice’s official missing persons lists. 

There has also been a recent outcry from Native American communities after Gabby Petito went missing and her remains were found in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where she had been camping with her fiancé when she disappeared. Petito’s case made National news just a few days after her disappearance and earned the attention of thousands across the United States of America, making her case go viral in just a few days. While Gabby Petito’s death was tragic and her family and friends experienced trauma, many were quick to point out that her case got more news coverage in just a few days than any Native person received in months, for example Dateline NBC ran a special episode concerning Petito just a month after her disappearance while Carla Yellowbird – a missing Native women from the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota – didn’t have an episode concerning her disappearance until four years later. Hundreds of cases of Indigenous people reported missing in the exact same state over the past decade have not been met with the same furor, there have been over 710 Indigenous people reported missing – mostly girls and women – and not one of them received news coverage like Petito.  

In response to recent news media coming out, some ways you can lend a helping hand are frequently checking websites such as Native Hope. Native Hope is a website that exists to address the injustice done to Native Americans, the creators of the website saying, “ We dismantle barriers through storytelling and impactful programs to bring healing and inspire hope.”