According to the Yakima Herald Republic’s special series, “The Vanished:”
A report from the National Institute of Justice found that more than four out of five Native American women have experienced violence in their lives. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that homicide is the third leading cause of death among Native American women between the ages of 10 and 24. The Department of Justice has reported Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans.
The murder and abduction of indigenous women is a national crisis that strikes communities here in Central Washington. There is no simple answer for the root cause of this violence. As the Herald says, “[these] are missing and murdered Native women and girls, mothers and grandmothers, daughters and sisters, aunties, friends.” This is about real people in our community. On the Yakama Nation reservation, there are 23 unsolved cases of missing or murdered women. In 2017, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center reported there were 5,656 reports of missing indigenous women or girls, with 633 active cases, which is likely an undercount. Many cases simply go unreported, so exact numbers are unclear. You can read some of their stories at www.yakimaherald.com/special_projects/vanished/missing. The memory of these women demands our attention, answers, and justice.
We must not only raise awareness, but we must start measuring of the extent of this national problem. It is time to take action so that these women are no longer invisible. To address this tragic crisis, we must understand its scope.
Currently, there is not a federal database to track the number of crimes against Native Americans. I am working with local tribes, law enforcement, and my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives on bipartisan legislation to improve the reporting, investigating, and communicating with families of victims. These are critical steps to take in order to address this crisis.
The legislative effort in Congress will be similar to steps in the Washington State House of Representatives led by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) to improve data collection.
As public awareness has developed, so has the recognition that this is not simply a local problem; it is a national crisis, and we must enable federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to effectively coordinate and counteract this trend.
It is my hope that legislation providing federal resources to law enforcement agencies and tribes will increase reporting and investigation to help them seek justice for these vanished women and their families.
Congressman Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside serves the 4th Congressional District in Washington, D.C