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International Women’s Day

‘She was decapitated a block from a police station’: Indigenous women are going missing and no one listens

Thousands of Native American females disappeared last year – so where is the international outcry for justice, asks Lucy Anna Gray

Tuesday 12 March 2019 17:34 GMT
A young activist marches for missing and murdered indigenous women at the Women’s March California 2019
A young activist marches for missing and murdered indigenous women at the Women’s March California 2019 (Getty)

It doesn’t matter if people know this is happening, they kill us anyway,” Audrey Huntley says. “We thought if we broke the silence something would change but unfortunately nothing has.” The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women may have once been an unspoken secret – but people now know about it. Marches, attention from politicians, international media focus, awareness of this North American crisis has hugely increased over the past two decades. But, as documentary-maker and victims' rights paralegal Huntley says, “they kill us anyway”.

Sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, friends – Indigenous women and girls in the US and Canada continue to go missing at a disproportionate rate. Murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaskan Native women. In Canada, a quarter of all women murdered in 2015 were Indigenous. In 1980 it was 9 per cent.

Justin Trudeau spearheaded a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW). The Savanna’s Act, aimed to curb the epidemic of violence against native women, passed unanimously in the US Senate during the last Congress. Yet Facebook is still full of heartbreaking missing posts of young native women, and Indigenous women continue to be raped, attacked, killed, at truly alarming rates.

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