By Nicole Leo
Since Christopher Columbus landed and “discovered” America, its native people have been treated as the Other. Without diving into the many past and current injustices that have been and are imposed on Native Americans, there is one specific systemic injustice that can be again linked to a lack of importance and urgency within the judicial system. Faith Hedgepeth was a co-worker, fellow student at the University of North Carolina, and a friend of mine. She was raped and murdered in 2012, a huge devastation to our small college town. Although the police have appeared to work diligently and still reassure us the case is still being worked on, the killer is still at large. Her death led me to learn about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement. There are alarming statistics that highlight the epidemic of MMIW. Indigenous women are ten times more likely to be murdered than any other demographic; Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to be the victim of a violent crime than any other demographic. What is most alarming about these statistics, is that they only report a small percentage of crimes against indigenous women. The Urban Indian Health Institute conducted various studies to gather information to compare numbers to those (like the ones above) given by our government and found that the rate of violence experienced by these women were much higher than reported. For example, the institute found there to be over 5,700 cases of MMIW but only 116 of these women were placed on the United States’ Department of Justice missing persons list. There are specific shortcomings that try to give reasons why the government failed to protect our these women including jurisdiction issues between government and Native lands, lack of services including emergency care and amber alerts, lack of community awareness, and lack of communication between government officials and native people. A call for action is needed for our judicial system to protect and uphold the law of justice and fairness for all and to stop the othering of indigenous women. Below is a video for reference of the suffering and injustice these families are facing. To learn more and raise awareness, you can visit mmiwusa.org.