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Collegian Erika Ross gives a speech that lays out the magnitude of violence committed against women in Indian Country

A huge crowd in Bozeman, Montana gathered, as part of the 2019 women’s march, to remember the thousands of indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing in the U.S. and Canada. Photo by Phil Knight Note to Readers . Ask yourself the following: were it happening to Caucasian women in the U.S. and Canada, would it be treated with the same level of indifference by society? This is the disquieting question now, at long last, coming to the forefront of an international discussion centered on the disappearance and murders of thousands of indigenous women. With journalists and activists presenting alarming evidence that can no longer be ignored, some politicians in the West are demanding accountability, led notably by newly-elected U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) of New Mexico. From Montana, two U.S. Senators, Jon Tester, a Democrat, and Steve Daines, a Republican, have introduced legislation that would dedicate investigative resources to future investigations and creation of an interagency database. Daines also recently requested that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hold a field hearing in Montana. One Montana-based activist, Erika Ross, a graduate teaching assistant at Montana State University and mother of two daughters, has devoted academic work to investigating just how great the victim toll has been. In January, Ross, who is not Native, gave a speech at the 2019 Women’s March in Bozeman. Her remarks are below. — Mountain Journal editors

By Erika Ross

I stand before you today as a non-Native aspiring ally to Indigenous peoples. Specifically, I’m here to discuss Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. What I’m not here to do, however, is to speak on behalf of Native tribes about this issue, because, I can assure you, tribes don’t need anyone to speak for on their behalf.

So, I address you as a graduate student, who’s researched this international crisis, who’s compiled data, who’s trying to make sense of convoluted law, and who believes deeply that everyone should know about this issue.

Montana is home to seven reservations, 13 tribal nations, and approximately 68,000 Native Americans. Overall, Native Americans make up roughly 6 percent of Montana’s total population, yet 30 percent of all missing Montanans are Native women.

Unfortunately, nearly every state with a significant Native population shares a similar statistic. When we consider all Native women within the U.S., we find that murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women aged 10 to 24. In some reservation areas, Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average. When we consider all Native women within the U.S., we find that murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women aged 10 to 24. In some reservation areas, Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average. It is disgustingly fair to say that the biggest challenge facing Native teen girls and young women is staying alive to see their 30s. Further, Native women are assaulted 2.5 to 3.5 times more than any other demographic of women. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, researchers found that 56 percent of Native women experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. The primary perpetrators of these violences are not Native. In actuality, nine out of 10 victims designate their assailants to be non-Native men; men who will likely never be caught, never be punished, never be jailed because of bureaucratic red tape.

The 1885 Major Crimes Act decided jurisdiction for select crimes between Native offenders belong to […]

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