Native Women, Girls Are Murdered, Go Missing At Disproportionate Rate
Women and girls in Indian country go missing and are involved in homicides at a far greater rate than any other demographic of people in Montana. That’s according to testimony today in the legislative State-Tribal Relations Committee, which is studying the issue.
Annita Lucchesi, a doctoral student at Lethbridge University, in the Canadian province of Alberta, told Montana lawmakers today Native women live in a system that values them less than other people.
“Very high rates of criminalization, mental health issues and lack of resources, very high rates of trauma," Lucchesi said. "All of those things create a perfect storm where rates of violence are very high, not just because people are more likely to be more violent but because Native woman are valued less. And there are less ramifications for it.”
Native Americans make up around 7 percent of the population in Montana.
But according to data from Montana’s Native American Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission, which was created by the 2003 Legislature, Native people of Montana are involved in 16 percent of all intimate partner homicides in the state.
Lucchesi says the data are even more disproportionate when looking at missing person reports.
“Native women make up 30 percent of missing persons in the state. And Native girls, so under 18, are 40 percent of the state’s missing children,” Lucchesi said.
Lucchesi says local law enforcement and government data on this issue is often poorly managed and at times hard for the public, or researchers to access. And this, she says, can make it hard to know what kind of policies could help this situation.
At their next meeting in May, The State-Tribal Relations Committee will consider sending a letter of support for a bill in Congress, known as Savanna’s Act, which would require the U.S. Attorney General to increase collection and availability of data related to missing and murdered Indian woman.
The committee will also consider sending a letter of support to Republican Senator John Hoeven, of North Dakota, for his is proposed SURVIVE Act.
That bill would create around $75 million per year in grant programs within the U.S. Department of Justice to fund tribal programs for crime victims.