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Saturday Marks Awareness of Murdered Native American Women

More than 80 percent of Native American women report experiencing violence, according to the National Crime Information Database. (Lindsey G/Flickr)
More than 80 percent of Native American women report experiencing violence, according to the National Crime Information Database. (Lindsey G/Flickr)
May 4, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – This weekend, the country will recognize the violence Native American women face. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven – R, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp – D, led an effort in Congress to mark Saturday as the first National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

There were more than 5,700 cases of missing or murdered Native American women in 2016, according to the National Crime Information Database. Lorraine Davis, executive director of the Native American Development Center in Bismarck, says the numbers could be much higher and that better data is needed to start tackling this issue.

"We're really trying to bring attention to urban areas about our Native American urban populations that are being impacted,” says Davis. “How many of those missing and murdered indigenous women were murdered in metropolitan areas and how many of these were on the reservation?"

Bismarck has the largest metropolitan Native American population in the state and also is the most tribally diverse. Davis says some of the under-reporting is due to a bias in the criminal justice system toward indigenous populations, noting that more than 20 percent of adults in prison are Native American even though they make up just over 5 percent of the population.

Davis says the other big issue is poverty. Her organization provides financial education, mentorship and one-on-one counseling to combat the effects of poverty.

"I really see the need to have to meet their needs economically in order for them to get out of the vicious cycle that both trauma and poverty keep you in," says Davis.

Davis says hanging above the issue of violence and poverty is the historical trauma Native Americans have endured. She says that still affects the services and support people get today.

"Historical oppression is real, and the behaviors that that causes hinders our progress," says Davis. “So we're bringing light about historical trauma and the historical responsiveness that gets in our way of progress, of working together, of supporting each other."

Native American women on some reservations are murdered at 10 times the national average, and 84 percent have experienced violence, the National Crime Information Database finds.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND