Advocates are stepping up awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Even with efforts in South Dakota and at the federal level, a key group says gaps still exist, including prevention. In recent years, May 5th has served as a day to honor victims, but in 2021, organizers launched an action week. Justice Department data show murder rates for Native American women are more than 10 times the national average. Paula Julian, of the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, says there are a lot of underlying factors, including lack of access to legal aid and shelters.
South Dakota recently approved a specialized office to help finding missing Native women and girls. And at the federal level, the Interior Department is starting a new unit to help with such cases. That follows last year's law to spur more efforts from the Justice Department. Julian says it all helps, but it shouldn't just center around data collection and case assistance. She cities the need for restoring more tribal authority to investigate, on top of reducing resource disparities.
According to the state data, roughly 70 percent of South Dakota's missing-persons cases involve Indigenous people. Julian says economic conditions on many reservations around the state open the door to dangerous situations, including human trafficking.
The Resource Center says there are fewer than 60 tribal created or Native-centered domestic violence shelters around the U-S. Despite the gaps, advocates say there's hope, including a new shelter planned for the Rosebud Reservation. Led by a local woman who secured CARES Act funding to make it happen, the facility is geared toward teen girls who are victims of sexual violence.