Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW, MMIWG)
We have had a problem with the safety of our women for 164 years. The missing and murdered women crisis cannot be fixed in the system we have. There has to be a new system across the local, tribal, state and federal level. - Emily Washines, Keynote at Yakama Nation MMIW on May 5, 2019.
Yakama Nation & MMIW
The Yakama Nation Reservation with approximately 1.3 million acres is located in south central Washington State, with a 11 million-acre ceded area and usual and accustomed area that spans numerous states (12 stat 951).
Growing up on the Yakama Nation, my older siblings and family talked about the violence against Native Women. It's work that I research the historical aspects of, including the reason the Yakama War started was because of violence towards our Native women and girls. However, they are often erased in history books. It is important to highlight the Yakama historical account alongside the present day crisis.
A term that is now utilized is Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (and Girls) with acronyms MMIW or MMIWG.
Other terms may include:
- Missing and Murdered American Indian/Alaska Native Women (Indian is a U.S. federal policy term)
- Missing and Murdered Native Women
- 2SLGBTQQIA (Canada)
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Men
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous People
Canada began their National Inquiry in December 2015. Their study, meetings, and artistic expression was witnessed broadly.
The United States launched Operation Lady Justice in November 2019, and their meeting with tribes will take place on February 2020 in Washington D.C at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).
There is much more to be done to increase the safety. The focus of this work includes numerous people, agencies, and/or organizations. This issue has many components. We will need to utilize a variety of resources to fix this crisis.
VANISHED by Yakima Herald-Republic
The Vanished page by local newspaper Yakima Herald-Republic lists the MMIW on or around the Yakama Reservation, Yakima County, and/or 4th District. This also includes Yakama women in urban areas such as Seattle.
Please note: this is not a complete list. Also, there are women on this list that are enrolled in other tribes. They may or may not have lineage with Yakama.
When I was 18, I was asked by the FBI to participate in a fashion show to raise awareness for cases involving American Indian Women in Palm Springs, California. I was just crowned Miss National Congress of American Indians and I stood by my elders and Yakama Nation Tribal Council.
Thinking back, there is a part of me that hoped we would be further along. There is another part of me that never through we would be talking so much about this.
This has been a silent crisis. Meaning, many of our tribal members knew about this, but for example, the non-Native woman had tears in her eyes after reading my quote in an article saying, "I had no idea, I didn't know." Which was a bit awkward since she was also in the middle of cleaning my teeth, but she shared a moment of empathy and connection. She was horrified that she lives only a couple miles away from the reservation, but was unaware. Native women and the high statistics we face are becoming more visible. Still, I carefully consider each time I am asked to speak.
On February 8, 2018, the press asked me to comment on legislation regarding missing Native women. I remember staring at the ceiling for a long time. I had never spoken to this reporter. I wondered if I did not comment will people think we don't care about our Yakama women? Am I leaving them alone? It would be easy to let the layers of distrust build distance between us. I believed then and now that change can happen. I sent them a quote. Living on the reservation and giving interviews and quotes about open investigations is not easy.
May we continue to have people that continue to work towards fixing this crisis. We have so many families that need answers and justice for their loved ones. Even still, we have those that need healing once those answers and court cases do come.
On January 2019, there was an MMIW event.
I spoke along with Yakama Nation Elected Officials, a Washington State Elected Official, and the Yakima County Sheriff. This Presentation was hosted by CWU Department of Law and Justice & Museum of Culture and Environment.