Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) today released MMIWG: We Demand More, a study that serves as a corrective response to the Washington State Patrol’s recent report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
Washington State Patrol’s report, issued in June, was mandated by the state legislature to determine how to increase resources for reporting and identifying missing Native American women.
Although the State Patrol held 10 forums with Native communities, Urban Indian Health Institute condemned that report for its imprecise accountings of those meetings and for lacking any meaningful or scientifically based analysis of the knowledge shared in them.
“My greatest fear is other states using Washington as a model to address MMIWG,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Director of UIHI. “We cannot have mediocre work being affirmed—that’s how structural racism evolves and invisibility of missing and murdered Native women increases.”
Multiple states across the country are writing similar reports and are looking to Washington State as an example. While the State Patrol report is the first of its kind, it is severely lacking in the rigor that could ultimately lead to better conditions for Native women and girls.
MMIWG: We Demand More includes a qualitative analysis of the 10 meetings hosted by Washington State Patrol. It also includes a quantitative analysis of the state’s data on missing Native women.
“We did this study to show the State how a study like this should have been done,” Echo-Hawk said. “It is imperative that indigenous people and organizations be involved and that the information is relevant and beneficial to Native people.”
Urban Indian Health Institute is the research division of Seattle Indian Health Board. It is one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) in the United States conducting research and evaluation, collecting and analyzing data, and providing disease surveillance.
Last November, Urban Indian Health Institute released Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: A snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United States. Among its findings was rampant racial misclassification in gathering data on Native populations—one of the main reasons for undercounting violence against Native women.
“Racial misclassification has been a problem and will continue to be a problem until it is recognized by entities other than Native-led and tribal organizations,” said Adrian Dominguez, Urban Indian Health Institute’s Director of Informatics and Epidemiology. “The State needs to listen to us when we tell them that their data is an undercount. Until Native women and girls are acknowledged as being Native, the data for indigenous communities won’t be accurate.”
On some reservations, there is non-tribal land on which tribal police do not have jurisdiction. “Because of that, our women and girls who go missing and are murdered are not getting the same law enforcement attention that would be provided to non-Native women and girls,” said Lael Echo-Hawk, an attorney and co-author of the report.
Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are said to go missing three times: in life, in the media, and in the data. The Washington State Patrol report shows they go missing a fourth time as well: in the government agencies that are meant to serve them.
“We will not be content with mediocre work,” Abigail Echo-Hawk said. “We will not let the lives of Native women be a checkbox that meets minimum requirements. We are demanding more.”
About Urban Indian Health Institute
Urban Indian Health Institute is a Native nonprofit organization based in Seattle whose mission is to decolonize data, for indigenous people, by indigenous people. As a Public Health Authority and one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the country — and the only one that serves Urban Indian Health Programs nationwide — Urban Indian Health Institute conducts research and evaluation, collects and analyzes data, and provides disease surveillance to strengthen the health of American Indian and Alaska Native communities.