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Content warning: the resource below contains information that may be disturbing for some readers. This includes mentions of sexual assault, domestic violence, and homicide. If you need to speak with someone, you can contact one of our on-call advocates at 907-747-6511 (Sitka) or 1-800-478-6511 (toll-free in AK).

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In 2016 there were 5,712 incidents reported of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S). However, only 116 of those cases were recorded in the Department of Justice database.

In a survey of 71 U.S. cities completed by the Urban Indian Health Institute, they identified 506 MMIWG2S cases, and found that 153 of those were missing from any sort of law enforcement records.

The MMIWG2S crisis is fueled by legal loopholes, poor federal accountability, generational trauma, and a lack of data. Many cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people go without reporting or investigation. Too often, perpetrators get let off scot-free due to legal gaps in the system. With growing awareness around this crisis, resources and research are popping up from all over the  U.S. and Canada. Read more about the growing movement of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People.


Lakota runner, Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, wears a red handprint during the 2019 Boston Marathon to raise awareness of the MMIWG2S crisis.


Historical Trauma

The colonization of the Indigenous populations in North America began in the 17th century. Driven by the prospects of land and gold, European settlers flooded into America, claiming Indigenous lands for their own.

European colonization had many detrimental impacts on Indigenous people. They brought foreign diseases like smallpox, syphilis and influenza that killed an estimated 90% of the Indigenous population in North America. Additionally, traditional food sources were targeted, cultural practices were outlawed, and children were forced into residential schools-fracturing the deeply rooted cultures of hundreds of tribal groups. 


In Alaska, Indigenous populations experienced both Russian and American colonization. Alaska Native children were also sent to boarding schools to be assimilated into Western culture. At these residential schools, Indigenous children were banned from speaking their native tongue, practicing their culture, and oftentimes experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Many survivors of these residential schools are still alive today.

Indigenous group are still fighting against outdated political systems. U.S. governmental policies still enforce the "Blood Quantum", restrict tribes' legal jurisdiction, and much more. Indigenous populations also  continue to experience lack of accessible and culturally appropriate healthcare services, racism, poverty, and more.   

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Why It Is Still Prevalent Today

The impacts of colonization have led to many disparities amongst Indigenous populations. Indigenous people in the U.S. have the lowest life expectancy rates than any other race. They also experience the highest death rates from  chronic liver disease and diabetes mellitus, assault/homicide, chronic respiratory diseases and self-harm/suicide, than any other racial group in America. Additionally, due to lack of access to education, only 17% of Indigenous students attend post-secondary education in comparison to the national average of 60%. These disparities leave many Indigenous people vulnerable to victimization. Alaska has especially unique circumstances that makes the MMIWG2S crisis particularly difficult to combat; click the image below to learn more about Alaska's specific issues. 





Western colonization seized Indigenous lands and imposed new laws and regulations onto Native people. To this day, Indigenous people still function under the jurisdiction of the American government; even "federally-recognized" tribes which are designated as sovereign on paper, are restricted by federal laws that do not meet the needs of Indigenous people. There has been gradual progress towards full sovereignty for Native tribes and this forward trajectory is integral in reducing the severity of the MMIWG2S crisis. Below is a timeline of how laws have evolved to begin recognizing tribal sovereignty over legal matters:

  • In 1817, Congress passed the first stature that gave Federal Jurisdiction over an Indigenous person who committed serious crimes against a non-Indigenous person. 

  • In 1885, the Major Crimes Act expanded the number of crimes committed by a Native American on Native territory that were placed under Federal Jurisdiction. 

  • 1978 Oliphant v. Suquamish case established that Indian tribal courts have no criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. As a result, tribes could not arrest and prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on Native land.

  • In 2010, Savanna’s Act was passed that directs the Department of Justice to “review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address missing or murdered Native Americans.”  

  • 2013 Violence against Women Reauthorization Act recognized the authority of “participating Tribes” to exercise “special tribal criminal jurisdiction” (STCJ)  over certain defendants (Native and Non-Native), who commit actions of domestic and dating violence or violate protective orders on “Indian Country”.  

  • In 2019, former President Donald Trump launched Operation Lady Justice which addresses unsolved cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and improve law enforcement’s response when these cases occur.

  • In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice a pilot project was announced to guide how tribes respond to cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and girls in Alaska. There are three tribal communities participating in the pilot project: Curyung Native Council (Dillingham), Native Village of Unalakleet, and Koyukuk Native Village. 

  • In 2022, Congress expanded the VAWA Reauthorization Act to include tribal jurisdiction over crimes of assault of Tribal justice personnel, child violence, obstruction of justice, sexual violence, sex trafficking, and stalking. 

  • Alaska Pilot Program: VAWA 2022 also includes provisions that would recognize Alaska Tribes’ sovereignty over criminal and civil offenses. 

Alaska is ranked the #1 state with the highest MMIWG2S cases in the U.S. (3).png
The Alaska Pilot Program (4).png

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With a talk that encourages hope, love, empowerment and igniting a new way of learning together as a nation, Tamara  Bernard lays bare the world of violence impacting indigenous women.

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While some of these initiatives indicate growing concern from the U.S. government, the overall the response to the MMIWG2S crisis have been largely inadequate considering the magnitude of the crisis. In Indigenous communities, they are often seemed as procedural and ineffective. The lack of total sovereignty for Indigenous tribes has perpetuated the MMIWG2S crisis and will continue to until tribal sovereignty is restored

What Can You Do To Help?

  • Support Indigenous People

    • Denounce violence against Indigenous women, girls​, and two-spirit people.

    • Provide emotional support to those affected by MMIWG2S

    • Support/donate to organizations that are actively working to alleviate the MMWG2S crisis. (see bottom right image)

  • Support equitable polices and systems for AI/AN populations.

  • Support tribal sovereignty and decolonization efforts.

  • Educate the public to raise awareness and support

    • Share information about missing and murdered Indigenous women on social media​.

    • Invite family and friends to protests and other events in support of MMIWG2S.

  • Attend protests

    • For example, in February of 2021, hundreds of Sitkans gathered and participated in the No More Stolen Sisters 5k Run/Walk to raise awareness for the MMIWG2S movement. Attending actions like this one can help mobilize support for the cause and create a safer community for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people.​

  • Be prepared and educate yourself.  The Alaska Native Women's Resource Center released their new toolkit “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: An Action Plan for Alaska Native Communities.” Alaskan Indigenous communities are encouraged to use this Toolkit as a guide for developing a plan of action that will include awareness, prevention, and intervention strategies. This toolkit can also be used as a guide for community organizing when someone goes missing. This Toolkit will be continuously updated and will evolve as new resources are found and strategies are developed.

Awareness Challenge

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MMIWG2S Organizations in Alaska (1).png

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MMIWG2S is a Global Issue

First Nation Australian women were six times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenou

Indigenous people all over the world experience disproportionate rates of violence compared to non-Indigenous people in the same areas. Mistrust in legal systems, generational trauma, and colonization continue to fuel this issue.

New Zealand, Canadian, and Australian Indigenous populations report a similar crisis to the U.S. with high homicide, domestic violence, and missing persons rates of First Nation women.

The all too common experience of survivors being let down by the justice system and perpetrators not facing appropriate consequences, permeates through nations across the world. 

The image on the left shows some disturbing statistics around the MMIWG2S global crisis. There are few articles and resources that talk about this ongoing issue. To learn more about different international MMIWG2S issues click the images below.


Click the image above to learn more about Canada's MMIWG2S crisis.

Click the image above to learn more about Australia's MMIWG2S crisis.

Additional Resources

*These articles contain names of victims and survivors of Alaska's MMIWG2S crisis that you may know.

Historica Trauma
How can you help?
Global Crisis
Additional Resources
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