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National Awareness Day for MMIWG commemorated locally and nationally

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High school students Patricia Christensen, Josh Crumley and Sarah Still Smoking walk as trio holding the MMIWG banner on the walk trail from Ronan to Pablo along Highway 93. Char-Koosta News PABLO — The awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis has officially spread across America. […]


MMIW banner
High school students Patricia Christensen, Josh Crumley and Sarah Still Smoking walk as trio holding the MMIWG banner on the walk trail from Ronan to Pablo along Highway 93.
Wayne McCoy

Char-Koosta News

PABLO — The awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis has officially spread across America. The United States Congress declared May 5, as “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.” The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

According to a study commissioned by the Department of Justice, American Indian women in some tribal communities face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average murder rate.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee stamped their approval on Resolution 144 without amendment and with a preamble by unanimous consent on Friday, May 2.

The resolution states: that the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017, found that homicide was the sixth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native females between 1 and 44 years of age. It also stated that little data exists on the number of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States.

The National Day of MMIWG awareness is designated on Hanna Harris’ birthday, a Northern Cheyenne member who was reported missing and five days later her body was found. An investigation determined that she was raped and murdered.

The resolution states, individuals accused of committing such crimes are often convicted — “Whereas the case of Hanna Harris is an example of many similar cases.” However, heretofore the Harris case remains unsolved.

In a statement issued on the White House government website, President Donald Trump stated, “My Administration will continue working to root out injustice and protect each and every person in America. On Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, we pause to raise awareness of unacceptable acts of violence that profoundly harm American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”

Americans and interest groups linked hearts across the nation on Sunday to commemorate the lives of Missing and Murdered American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Girls and to demonstrate solidarity with the families of victims. The Flathead Reservation community took the call through Two Eagle River School staff and students who allied with thousands of people across the country through a “virtual run.”

Red Earth Running Company, owned by Navajo marathon runner Verna Volkner, put a call out on social media to activists and advocates throughout the country to hold events and rallies to help raise awareness of the ongoing issue of disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women in North America being affected by violence.

In the Flathead Nation community TERS instructor Jaimie Stevenson said several TERS students and staff agreed to take part in the nationwide solidarity. “Many students were already energized about the idea of doing a walk because of the awesome example set by Marita Growing Thunder over the past three years,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said the Sunday walk/run from Ronan to Pablo was about bringing current attention to the age-old issue of under- and un-investigated cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two spirit and trans people on and off reservations.

“TERS students have been interested and vocal about this issue, particularly this year, probably because of personal connection to a number of current MMIWG cases here and around the state,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said when CSKT tribal member Rep. Shane Morigeau, (D-Missoula) testified and explained the reasoning behind HB 219, (that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Montana) it made an impact on her and the TERS community. Morigeau traced the history of the MMIWG crisis straight back to Christopher Columbus. He accurately stated that Columbus was the first known sex trafficker on this continent.

In the recent White House issued statement President Trump stated, “Too many American Indians and Alaska Natives are the victims of abuse, sexual exploitation, or murder, or are missing from their communities. Some of those missing may be victims of human trafficking. We must work together as a nation to correct these injustices and ensure the safety of all Americans, particularly our most vulnerable populations.”

Stevenson said TERS students submitted public comments in support of Hanna’s Act during this past state legislative session. “So we have been talking more and more about the legislative reforms needed to address this issue,” she said.

TERS students and staff created a “MMIWG National Awareness Run/Walk” Facebook event and welcomed the community to participate.

Some of the thoughts and talks on the local walk surrounded Jermain Charlo, a former TERS student who has been missing since June 2018. The case is still under active investigation.

“Conversations I heard included people’s personal experiences with the absence of law enforcement in life-or-death situations,” Stevenson said. “I also heard some interesting conversations about attributing violence against women to the perpetrator (most often men) versus the system (and lack of law enforcement).”

The young trio who walked toward the back where they said the cool kids hang — Sarah Still Smoking, 13, home school student, Josh Crumley, 17, TERS Student and Patricia Christianson, 17, St. Ignatius High School student — conversed about the fear their generation now faces in light of the MMIWG awareness. “Why does this keep happening,” Crumley asked. “We have to know we are safe and we tell each other always, to be safe.”

Still Smoking said she is grateful to know “these things” but at some point she along with others want to not have to live in fear.

WHITE HOUSE PROCLAMATIONS

Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, 2019

LAW & JUSTICE

Issued on: May 3, 2019

On Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, we draw attention to the horrible acts of violence committed against American Indian and Alaska Native people, particularly women and children. Too many American Indians and Alaska Natives are the victims of abuse, sexual exploitation, or murder — or are missing from their communities. Some of those missing may be victims of human trafficking. We must work together as a Nation to correct these injustices and ensure the safety of all Americans, particularly our most vulnerable populations.

American Indian and Alaska Native people face alarming levels of violence. Data from the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, including sexual violence, in their lifetimes. American Indian and Alaska Native children attempt and commit suicide at rates far higher than those in any other demographic in our Nation, and often endure disproportionately high rates of endemic drug abuse, violence, and crime.

Ending the violence that disproportionately affects American Indian and Alaska Native communities is imperative. Under my Administration, Federal agencies are working more comprehensively and more collaboratively to address violent crime in Indian country, to recover the American Indian and Alaska Native women and children who have gone missing, and to find justice for those who have been murdered. As a result of these ongoing efforts, we are improving public safety, we are expanding funding and training opportunities for law enforcement in Indian country, and we are better equipping them with tools like access to criminal databases. We have also established improved protocols based on our government-to-government relationships with the tribes, and have become more transparent and accountable in our efforts.

Currently, every United States Attorney’s Office with Indian country jurisdiction has developed sexual assault response and multidisciplinary teams to combat sexual assault and abuse of American Indian and Alaska Native women and children. In addition, the Attorney General has developed a working group dedicated to addressing violent crime in Indian country. This working group has made the development of law enforcement strategies for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) a priority, improving human trafficking training and creating law enforcement initiatives for United States Attorneys.

To help address the significant challenges in collecting data regarding missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native people, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) partnered together to capture tribal data through new data fields in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. DOJ has also expanded the Tribal Access Program (TAP) and Amber Alert in Indian country to make law enforcement more aware of missing persons and to enhance their ability to be responsive to missing persons reports and Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) registrants in the area. TAP also enables tribal law enforcement to have access to national law enforcement databases and to immediately and directly enter missing persons reports into them. In addition, BIA’s Tribal Justice Support Directorate funds the training of tribal attorneys in prosecuting domestic violence and partner abuse crimes as part of implementing the Violence Against Women Act.

In Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, DOJ allocated historic amounts of funding to combat violent crime in Indian country, including to the MMIP efforts of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). DOJ set aside close to $300 million from the Crime Victim Fund over two years to assist victims of crime in Indian country. It also expanded the Tribal Special Assistant United States Attorney program, which is aimed at reducing violent crime, including violence against women, in Indian country and building important partnerships between Federal and tribal agencies. In addition, DOJ funds the National Indian Country Training Initiative (NICTI), which continues to provide training at the National Advocacy Center and in the field for Federal, State, and tribal criminal justice and social service professionals.

My Administration will continue working to root out injustice and protect each and every person in America. On Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, we pause to raise awareness of unacceptable acts of violence that profoundly harm American Indian and Alaska Native communities. As a Nation, we honor the lives of all missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, and we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that violence against these vulnerable Americans shall not be overlooked or tolerated.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2019, as Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day. I call upon Americans and all Federal, State, tribal, and local governments to increase awareness of the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives through appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

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