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As Number of Missing Native Women Grows, Who is Keeping Track?

Katina Locklear (pictured) of Robeson County, N.C. was murdered in 2018. The case remains unsolved. (Jane Jacobs)
Katina Locklear (pictured) of Robeson County, N.C. was murdered in 2018. The case remains unsolved. (Jane Jacobs)
April 27, 2020

PEMBROKE, N.C. -- Jane Jacobs of New Hanover County says every day she wakes up feeling like it's Dec. 20, 2018, the day her 46-year-old sister, Katina Locklear, was murdered in neighboring Pembroke.

Jacobs says she's had no closure in the case, which is ongoing.

Research indicates native women are more than three times more likely to be a victim of violent crimes, and in North Carolina, roughly 90 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and children -- some cases dating back to the early 1990s -- remain unsolved.

Jacobs says it's an epidemic.

"Robeson County, and even New Hanover County, Hoke County, Bladen, Columbus County, there's huge Indian populations," she states. "Us tribe people in Robeson County, we actually know hundreds of people that are missing and murdered."

Gov. Roy Cooper has declared May 5 an official Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the state.

The Raleigh-based group Women AdvaNCe recently held an online rally featuring more than 20 speakers, including victims' families and elected officials, calling for legislation to create an accurate statewide database of victims.

Ericka Faircloth, co-director of Women AdvaNCe, says since most North Carolina tribes are not recognized by the federal government, there are no accurate records of exactly how many indigenous women have been murdered or have gone missing.

"People, they just vanish, all the time," Faircloth states. "It's been going on for years. No one can really pinpoint why. Anyone who investigates in the community, it's very dangerous for them to do so."

Faircloth also says misconceptions about what native women look like contribute to the problem. When a crime is reported, victims are often misclassified as black, white or Hispanic.

Jacobs says she believes that when a victim is identified as native, law enforcement tends to move slowly and prosecutions are rare.

"Evidence has been missing, and tests not done when they should be done and sitting on shelves for two years," she points out. "It's like, even though we're standing up and we're raising our voice right now, we're not getting very far with getting the help and the resolution on what's happened to these people's loved ones. "

Jacobs adds that Facebook groups like Shatter the Silence and The Missing of Robeson County, NC serve as gathering places for communities to share information and document ongoing cases.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC