Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day is May 5
By Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
May 1, 2023
Currently, in the United States, there are nearly 23,000 people reported missing from tribal lands. Of those, approximately 700 are reported missing from Oklahoma, according to data from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Let that sink in for a moment. Someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, brother or sister vanishes without a trace.
It is a daily occurrence with a frequency on tribal lands that is startling, to say the least. Due to the vast area that tribal lands cover, response to missing persons reports can be challenging for law enforcement. For example, federal prosecutors have primary criminal jurisdiction for 70 million acres of tribal lands spanning 200 Native American country territories.
Tackling the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women and girls is an imperative issue that demands mutual respect and collaboration in working together with tribal nations. According to the FBI, approximately 75% of the crimes investigated on tribal lands involve homicide, rape, violent assaults, or child abuse.
On May 5, 2021, through efforts from various Native advocates, tribal leaders, and government officials, President Biden signed the proclamation that May 5 is “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.” The proclamation is designed to bring awareness to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous victims and shed light on the investigation and apprehension of criminals. It is also a day of hope that missing people may return to their families and continue with their lives.
At 8 a.m. on May 13, 2023, advocates hoping to bring awareness to the missing and murdered while also showing support for impacted families will gather at the Choctaw Community Center in Antlers, Oklahoma, to walk in honor of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW/MMIWG) movement. Last year’s event saw a total of 198 runners in the 5K event and 146 participants in the 1-mile walk who took part in the MMIW Awareness Walk and Community Event. More than 500 people attended the 2022 MMIW Awareness Walk and Community Event. We hope you and your family will join us for this year’s event on May 13.
Other events occurring in the Choctaw Nation that will acknowledge MMIW includes the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Event on May 5, from 12 p.m. through 2 p.m. at the HQ amphitheater.
This event is hosted by MMIW Chahta (a non-profit 501c3 organization) to raise awareness of the National MMIW Day, which is observed on May 5.
Make plans to join your colleagues to learn more about this important topic. Speakers from families affected and the Choctaw Nation Family Violence team will deliver information and a powerful message at this year’s CNO MMIW event that will be held at the HQ Amphitheater. For more information, please contact Karrisa Hodge at [email protected].
Also, as a part of National MMIW Day, individuals are encouraged to wear red to acknowledge and honor the thousands of indigenous women and girls who go missing each year.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma offers several services to those affected by domestic violence and abuse.
The Tribal Victim Assistance Program provides comprehensive services to Native American victims of crime, including emergency food, clothing, shelter, safety plans, goal planning, courtroom advocacy (support), and other emergency services to restore the victims’ sense of dignity and self-esteem.
Tribal Victim Services guides victims of crime and their families with counseling and group therapy. This program consists of a Victim Advocate and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who provide comprehensive, culturally competent, direct services to victims of crime and their families.
Project EMPOWER assists victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking by helping them stabilize housing, childcare and other day-to-day support so they can focus on reclaiming their lives.
For more information about the CNO programs mentioned above, call 877-285-6893.
Family Violence Prevention provides quality specialized services and resources that promote family strength and stability and enhance the safety of victims of domestic violence, family violence or dating violence and their dependents.
Choctaw Children and Family Services are ready to help anyone experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of family violence or you’re living in fear of violence, call 800-522-6170.
Other useful contacts include:
- Oklahoma Safeline – 800-522-7233 (SAFE)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233 (SAFE)
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Hotline – 800-656-4673 (HOPE)
- Communication Services for the Deaf – 800-252-1017 (TTY) / 866-845-7445 (Voice)
- Okla Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.) – 405-524-0770
- StrongHearts Helpline – 844-762-8483 (1-844-7NATIVE)
Even though progress is a step in the right direction for activists and families, there is still much left to do to address this issue correctly.
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center offers resources and ways to get involved in the MMIW movement and information on other Indigenous Women’s Issues. Visit niwrc.org for more information.
Yakoke in advance for taking part in the 2023 MMIW Awareness Walk and Community Event on May 13 at the Community Center in Antlers!