Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR)

The current reports of abduction and murder of Native women are alarming and represent one of the most horrific aspects of the spectrum of violence committed against Native women. The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations. These disappearances or murders are often connected to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking. The intersection of gender-based violence and MMIWR is heavily intertwined. It is important to understand the connection between domestic, dating, and sexual violence and the high incidence of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives (MMIWR) in the United States. This long-standing crisis of MMIWR can be attributed to the historical and intergenerational trauma caused by colonization and its ongoing effects in Indigenous communities stretching back more than 500 years.

In response to the crisis of MMIWR, grassroots actions to honor and call for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives have increasingly grown at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Many of these grassroots efforts have lifted May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. May 5th is the birthday of 21-year-old Hanna Harris (Northern Cheyenne) who went missing and was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013. Since then, Native families, advocates, and Indigenous nations have risen to challenge the silence, tolerance, and inaction in response to the crisis of MMIWR. Locally, community searches and actions, tribal press conferences, justice marches continue to draw attention and urgency to the MMIWR crisis, reflecting the long-standing call in holding governments publicly accountable for the perpetrators allowed to prey on Native women with impunity. NIWRC is committed to lifting the voices of surviving family members to hold these failed systems accountable and responsible for this national crisis.

In 2017, the Montana Congressional Delegation led the way for the passage of a Senate resolution declaring May 5th the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Relatives (MMIWR) in response to the demands for justice following the murder of Hanna Harris at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013. Due to the inadequate response of the justice system, her family and friends conducted the search for Hanna. The community also led marches for justice for Hanna and other unresolved murders of Native women and relatives. Since 2017, the national movement to end violence against Native women has organized activities supporting May 5th as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Relatives. Sign on here.

Native women continue to disappear, and many have been murdered. The issues surrounding missing and murdered Native women must continue to be elevated beyond public awareness for action and increased accountability of the justice systems. Turning our grief to action, NIWRC strongly supports and calls upon Congress to address:

  • the need for additional tribal victim services and tribal justice resources affirmed in several federal reports, including those identified in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Broken Promises Report, and
  • the inadequate responses of the federal and state criminal justice systems that fail Native women.

A National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Relatives will:

  • honor the lives of our Native sisters,
  • continue to shed light on the countless tragedies involving our Native sisters,
  • highlight the need for ongoing grassroots advocacy and organizing for change of laws, policies, protocols, and allocation of increased resources at the tribal, federal, and state levels to end these injustices, and
  • create the sharing of information needed to understand the legal reforms and changes required.