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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet Secretary, announced the creation of the Missing and Murdered Unit in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase resources dedicated to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

According to the Department of the Interior, the National Crime Information Center currently lists about 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons and approximately 2,700 women have been murdered according to the Federal Government’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. 

The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) is a tragedy with deep, intersectional roots including white supremacy (specifically anti-Indigenous racism), misogyny and capitalism, and has been linked to extractive industry “man camps” for oil, gas and mining. Until now, federal authorities have largely ignored this crisis, leaving communities vulnerable. 

Earthworks applauds Secretary Haaland for creating this new Missing and Murdered Unit. Empowered with political will, leadership and financial resources, this unit can investigate and hold accountable those responsible for this gendered violence against Indigenous communities.

Below is a statement from Beverly Harry, Progressive Leadership Association of Nevada (PLAN) Native Community Organizer and member of the Navajo Tribe, given while she was en route to protesting the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mine on Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone land in Nevada. The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribal Council cancelled their Project Engagement Agreement with Lithium Nevada and according to the Sierra Nevada Ally, have “agreed to initiate a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for violations of federal law in permitting the Thacker Pass lithium mine project to proceed.” Protestors are against the mine due to its likelihood of polluting scarce water supplies and otherwise destroying a unique environment, as well as because of its rushed approval process under the last days of the Trump administration.  

“We begin to wonder if the state and national leaders understand the horrific relationship with the violence against indigenous women and our Earth Mother. There’s a pattern the leaders need to break about supporting projects that is not about their land but deriving wealth from stolen land. Native women see our federal leaders not playing the correct role in protecting and not understanding trust responsibility.”

Beverly Harry

For More Information

Global Indigenous Council page on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

Honor the Earth fact sheet on MMIW and man camps

Indigenous Environmental Network discussion on the MMIW epidemic

Documentary Somebody’s Daughter 2021 release schedule

The Connection between Pipelines and Sexual Violence from The New Republic in 2019, explaining the jurisdictional grey area and the need for the new Missing and Murdered Unit.