FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Debra O’Gara, AKNWRC Senior Policy Specialist
Covid Precautions Make the Long Standing Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Worse
Not one more missing, murdered Indigenous woman has been ringing throughout the country for many years. The voices of the mother, daughters, aunties and families left behind have finally been heard. Last week the Anchorage Daily News, NBC and several other mainstream media brought national attention to the violence faced by Native American and Alaska Native families.
“The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been escalating for over 200 years. The current COVID situation has definitely increased and compounded the problem” says Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director for the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center. “We have been asking for law enforcement, including the Department of Justice, to put resources into investigating our disappeared women. We are glad this is finally happening with the opening of six cold case offices, including one in Anchorage, Alaska.”
On July 28, 2020, the Anchorage Daily News reported that five homicides had occurred in June in several small rural Alaska villages. The subtitle states the ‘pandemic has limited emergency services, and without shelters, many say, these deaths are no surprise.’ Debra O’Gara, AKNWRC Senior Policy Specialist, responded “yes, this many deaths is not a surprise, but COVID is not the cause. The virus precautions have only made an already bad situation worse. Our villages already did not have public safety, emergency services, shelters or safe houses, or ability to easily travel outside the village.”
“We here in Alaska are hopeful this national attention will finally bring the necessary resources we need and have been asking for – increased investigation, protocols to report missing persons, accurate and reliable data collection – for a start” O’Gara continued.
Ultimately, the historical prevalence of violence that has been allowed for generations has a long lasting effect on Indigenous people and their communities. Truett Jerue concluded that “to turn this around will take more than a few offices with promises. There must be a solid genuine commitment to tackle the complex and ingrained policies that have allowed this type of violence to become the normal for Native women and children.” The lack of response is another example of systemic racism we as indigenous people face everyday.
Find Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center at www.aknwrc.org
Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska’s 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members and staff are Alaska Native women raised in Alaska Native Villages and have over 250 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national and international levels), and other social services experience. AKNWRC’s philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations and thus dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government’s responses through community organzing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes against domestic and sexual abuse and violence.