Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG)

Above is a picture of a hand-painted sign on the barn located at UC Santa Cruz’s campus main entrance to promote the AIRC’s MMIWG virtual event series, 2021

The UCSC American Indian Resource Center is dedicated to raising awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), a human rights issue impacting Native communities all across the United States and Canada. In 2019, the Urban Indian Health Institute reported that 95% of MMIWG cases are never covered in national or international media.  

Our center hosts an annual event in honor of MMIWG on May 5, the United States' National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We also provide a general presentation about MMIWG for student organizations, departments, and programs on the UCSC campus and in the Santa Cruz community who are interested in learning more. Our presentation covers information about MMIWG history, issues of jurisdiction, legislation, advocacy, and provides audiences with resources on what they can do to help spread awareness and take action.

If you are interested in hosting an MMIWG teach-in, please contact the AIRC Program Coordinator for more information.

Program Coordinator: Jemzi Ortiz
Email: jortizfr@ucsc.edu


In Spring 2021, the AIRC team created an MMIWG resource guide for those who wish to take a deeper dive into this human rights issue. This guide includes information and resources you may utilize to further understand the complexities of MMIWG as well as encourage allyship and awareness.

If you’d like to access the guide, please click here

The AIRC also collaborated with the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery to produce a virtual red dress exhibit, inspired by the world of Métis artist, Jaime Black, creator of the REDress Project. Click here to view the exhibit or scan the QR code below with your phone's camera. 

mmiwg-sesnon

UCSC's City on a Hill Press (CHP) wrote an article about the AIRC's collaboration with the Sesnon Gallery to create the red dress exhibit. Click here to read.  


Below are some resources you may utilize to learn more about MMIWG:

ORGANIZATIONS

  • National Indigenous Women's Resource Center

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    • The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. The NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty.

    • Our staff and board of directors consist of Native women from throughout the United States with extensive experience and commitment to ending violence against Native women and their children. NIWRC's staff bring decades of expertise in building the grassroots movement to increase tribal responses to domestic violence and increase safety for Native women.

  • Native Women’s Collective

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    • The Native Women's Collective is a grassroots nonprofit organization that supports the continued growth of Native American arts, culture, leadership and community development through public education, workshops, exhibits, research, cultural preservation projects, programs and technical assistance. The collective works to advance emerging and established artists and creative professionals by providing a network and forum for capacity building that centers social & environmental justice.

  • Rising Hearts

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    • Rising Hearts is an Indigenous-led grassroots organization committed to the heart work in elevating Indigenous voices and promoting and supporting intersectional collaborative efforts across all movements with the goals of racial, social, climate, and economic justice. Our primary focuses are to inform, elevate, mobilize, and organize through strategic and targeted advocacy, establishing collaborative partnerships to help create a better and safer future, and environment for all relatives who inhabit this planet - past, present and future.

    • Vision: A socially, economically, and environmentally-just world where all who inhabit her are safe and empowered to thrive while realizing our collective potential. 

  • Sovereign Bodies Institute

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    • Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI) builds on Indigenous traditions of data gathering and knowledge transfer to create, disseminate, and put into action research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people. SBI is committed to: 

      • conducting, supporting, and mobilizing culturally-informed and community-engaged research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people

      • uplifting Indigenous researchers, knowledge keepers, and data visualists in their work to research and disseminate data on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people

      • empowering Indigenous communities and nations to continue their work to end gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people, through data-driven partnerships that enhance research efforts, develop best practices, and transform data to action to protect and heal their peoples.

  • Urban Indian Health Institute

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    • Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) is leading the way in research and data for urban American Indian and Alaska Native communities. As a Public Health Authority and one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the country—and the only one that serves Urban Indian Health Programs nationwide—UIHI conducts research and evaluation, collects and analyzes data, and provides disease surveillance to strengthen the health of American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

BOOKS

  • CONQUEST – Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith

    • In this revolutionary text, prominent Native American studies scholar and activist Andrea Smith reveals the connections between different forms of violence—perpetrated by the state and by society at large—and documents their impact on Native women. Beginning with the impact of the abuses inflicted on Native American children at state-sanctioned boarding schools from the 1880s to the 1980s, Smith adroitly expands our conception of violence to include the widespread appropriation of Indian cultural practices by whites and other non-Natives; environmental racism; and population control. Smith deftly connects these and other examples of historical and contemporary colonialism to the high rates of violence against Native American women—the most likely to suffer from poverty-related illness and to survive rape and partner abuse. Smith also outlines radical and innovative strategies for eliminating gendered violence.

    • mmiwg-conquest

  • Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada by Dawn Memee Lavell-Harvard and Jennifer Brant 

    • The hidden crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada is both a national tragedy and a national shame. In this ground-breaking new volume, as part of their larger efforts to draw attention to the shockingly high rates of violence against our sisters, Jennifer Brant and D. Memee Lavell-Harvard have pulled together a variety of voices from the academic realms to the grassroots and front-lines to speak on what has been identified by both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations as a grave violation of the basic human rights of Aboriginal women and girls. Linking colonial practices with genocide, through their exploration of the current statistics, root causes and structural components of the issue, including conversations on policing, media and education, the contributing authors illustrate the resilience, strength, courage, and spirit of Indigenous women and girls as they struggle to survive in a society shaped by racism and sexism, patriarchy and misogyny. This book was created to honour our missing sisters, their families, their lives and their stories, with the hope that it will offer lessons to non-Indigenous allies and supporters so that we can all work together towards a nation that supports and promotes the safety and well-being of all First Nation, Métis and Inuit women and girls. 

    • mmiwg-forever-loved.

  • If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie and Nahanni Shingoose

    • If I Go Missing is derived from excerpts of a letter that went viral and was also the basis of a documentary film. In her letter, Jonnie calls out the authorities for neglecting to immediately investigate missing Indigenous people and urges them to not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be if she were to be reported missing. Indigenous artist Neal Shannacappo provides the artwork. Through his illustrations, he imagines a situation in which a young Indigenous woman does disappear, portraying the reaction of her community, her friends, the police, and media.

    • mmiwg-if-i-go-missing

  • Keetsahnak: Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters edited by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt

    • In Keetsahnak / Our Murdered and Missing Indigenous Sisters, the tension between personal, political, and public action is brought home starkly as the contributors look at the roots of violence and how it diminishes life for all. Together, they create a model for anti-violence work from an Indigenous perspective. They acknowledge the destruction wrought by colonial violence, and also look at controversial topics such as lateral violence, challenges in working with “tradition,” and problematic notions involved in “helping.” Through stories of resilience, resistance, and activism, the editors give voice to powerful personal testimony and allow for the creation of knowledge.

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  • Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca 

    • This autobiographical work was written by one of the country's most well-known Native American women, Sarah Winnemucca. She was a Paiute princess and a major figure in the history of Nevada; her tribe still resides primarily in the state. Life Among the Piutes deals with Winnemucca's life and the plight of the Paiute Indians. Life Among the Piutes is Winnemucca's powerful legacy to both white and Paiute cultures. Following the oral tradition of Native American people, she reaches out to readers with a deeply personal appeal for understanding. She also records historical events from a unique perspective. She managed to record the Native American viewpoint of whites settling the West, told in a language that was not her own and by a woman during the time when even white women were not allowed to vote. Sarah Winnemucca dedicated her life to improving the living and social conditions for her people. She gave more than 400 speeches across the United States and Europe to gain support for the Paiutes. She died of tuberculosis in 1891. Life Among the Piutes was originally published in 1883.

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  • Sharing Our Stories of Survival: Native Women Surviving Violence edited by Sarah Deer, Bonnie Clairmont, Carrie A. Martell, and Maureen L. White Eagle 

    • A general introduction to the social and legal issues involved in acts of violence against Native women, this book's contributors are lawyers, social workers, social scientists, writers, poets, and victims. In the U.S. Native women are more likely than women from any other group to suffer violence, from rape and battery to more subtle forms of abuse, and Sharing Our Stories of Survival explores the causes and consequences of such behavior. The stories and case-studies presented here are often painful and raw, and the statistics are overwhelmingly grim; but a countervailing theme also runs through this extremely informative volume: Many of the women who appear in these pages are survivors, often strengthened by their travails, and the violence examined here is human violence, meaning that it can be changed, if only with much effort and education. The first step is to lay out the truth for all to see, and that is the purpose accomplished by this book. 

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  • Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls by Emmanuelle Walter 

    • In 2014, the nation was rocked by the brutal violence against young Aboriginal women Loretta Saunders, Tina Fontaine and Rinelle Harper. But tragically, they were not the only Aboriginal women to suffer that year. In fact, an official report revealed that since 1980, 1,200 Canadian Aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing. This alarming official figure reveals a national tragedy and the systemic failure of law enforcement and of all levels of government to address the issue.

    • Journalist Emmanuelle Walter spent two years investigating this crisis and has crafted a moving representative account of the disappearance of two young women, Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, teenagers from western Quebec, who have been missing since September 2008. Via personal testimonies, interviews, press clippings and official documents, Walter pieces together the disappearance and loss of these two young lives, revealing these young women to us through the voices of family members and witnesses.

    • Stolen Sisters is a moving and deeply shocking work of investigative journalism that makes the claim that not only is Canada failing its First Nations communities, but that a femicide is taking place.

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  • The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America by Sarah Deer 

    • The Beginning and End of Rape makes available the powerful writings in which Sarah Deer, who played a crucial role in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, has advocated for cultural and legal reforms to protect Native women from endemic sexual violence and abuse. These essays point to the possibility of actual and positive change in a world where Native women are systematically undervalued, left unprotected, and hurt.

    • mmiwg-beginning-end

  • The Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid

    • A searing and revelatory account of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Highway 16, and an indictment of the society that failed them. For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. 

    • mmiwg-highway-of-tears

  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich

    • One of the most revered novelists of our time - a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life - Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. 

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REPORTS

FILMS

  • Finding Dawn
    • Acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh brings us a compelling documentary that puts a human face on a national tragedy – the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The film takes a journey into the heart of Indigenous women's experience, from Vancouver's skid row, down the Highway of Tears in northern BC, and on to Saskatoon, where the murders and disappearances of these women remain unsolved.
    • Also available on YouTube.
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  • Our Sisters in Spirit
    • A short documentary that explores the question of calling a national public inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women & girls in Canada or whether there may be a better approach.
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  • Silent No More
    • “Silent No More” is a documentary that seeks to expose the phenomenon of murdered and missing indigenous women in the United States. It was filmed and edited by a 19-year-old student at Duke University who spent the summer as an intern for White Bison, Inc. The film includes heart wrenching interviews with the family members of Native women who have either been murdered or are still missing.
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  • Wind River 
    • Cory Lambert is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. When the autopsy reveals that she was raped, FBI agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate. Teaming up with Lambert as a guide, the duo soon find that their lives are in danger while trying to solve the mystery of the teen's death.
    • Available on Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, Vudu, and YouTube.
    • img-wind-river

YOUTUBE VIDEOS

  • AIRC's National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Seeking Justice for Our Sisters (2020)

  • AIRC's Seeking Justice for Our Sisters: A 3-day virtual event series dedicated to raising awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2021)

  • Indigenous Women Keep Going Missing in Montana

    • There’s an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women, and Native communities have had enough. 

  • Running for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

    • Runner and MMIW advocate, Rosalie Fish of the Cowlitz Tribe, delivers a TEDxTalk about MMIW and explains how she uses her running platform to spread awareness.

  • The Search: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women 

    • Indigenous women in the United States experience some of the highest rates of violence and murder in the country, according to federal data.

  • Voces Críticas 

    • An interview with Dr. Hernandez and former AIRC intern, Rennea Howell (Class of 2019) about MMIWG



Please see our Suggested Readings & Films page to view more documentaries, articles, and podcasts. 

 

NOTE: This list is constantly being updated with new information. It is in no way exhaustive. There are hundreds of resources online for those of you interested in delving deeper into the subject.