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Advocacy committees call for recognition of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls day

Native women face murder rates 10 times higher than the national average

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Madison McKinney is co-chair of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — Since 2017, grassroots actions on May 5 to honor and call for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) have increasingly grown at the local, regional, national and international level.

As a part of that movement, the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC) and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC) recommended that the 224th General Assembly (2020) direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to include a Day of Awareness in all future printings and distributions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Planning Calendar.

 According to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), a congressional resolution to designate May 5 as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls has been introduced.

The resolution was drafted in memory of Hanna Harris  of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, who was murdered in 2013. The resolution was first introduced in April 2016 on the same day that RoyLynn Rides Horse, a Crow tribal member, passed away after having been beaten, burned, and left in a field to die. Nearly 200 tribal, national, and state organizations supported this resolution.

Data from the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that Native women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average murder rate. There are currently more than 5,000 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women. Fifty-five percent of Native women have experienced domestic violence.

REAC and ACWC state their rationale for their recommendation to the 224th General Assembly was learning about the silenced tragedy of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people from their Indigenous Presbyterian siblings whose lives, families and communities are directly impacted.

The committees also acknowledged the firsthand experience of loss and trauma of Native siblings and those having people in their own lives disappear. They pointed out that this is a tragedy directly impacting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In consultation with ministry partners serving on the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC), REAC and ACWC learned of the desire of Indigenous people for the PC(USA) to advocate for the appropriate law enforcement agencies to take care in collecting consistent data among state and federal agencies as well as between tribal governments when missing Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are reported, investigated and located.

“The violence that is perpetrated against Indigenous women stems from the colonial violence that has been present on North American soil for the past five centuries,” said Madison McKinney, one of the co-chairs of the ACWC.

“This colonial violence has been a direct attack on our women, the creators and caretakers of our nations. In addition to the individuals that have been attacking our women, colonial policies and procedures have allowed this violence to continue and to go nearly unnoticed by federal agencies.”

McKinney says that only within the past five years has more attention been brought to this subject. But the violence has been occurring since the first contact with Europeans.

“In order to understand why this epidemic is continuing with no room for accountability, we must first understand how colonialism has been intricately woven into federal policy, the mindsets of the people committing the violence, and how it prevents the sovereign nations from protecting their women,” she explained.

“Since the data is often inaccurate, or simply missing, it is crucial to listen to the countless stories of Indigenous families and communities that have been impacted by this epidemic.”

In addition to adding May 5 to the Presbyterian Planning Calendar, REAC and ACWC made other recommendations to the 224th General Assembly (2020) that can be found here. These recommendations have been referred the 225th General Assembly (2022).

For other resources related to the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People, visit the PC(USA)’s Racial Justice Resources site.

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