Missing or Murdered Indigenous People: Bringing Loved Ones Home
Grassroots efforts working to increase national awareness and understanding of the missing or murdered indigenous persons crisis are highlighted in this video. Also referred to as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR), or other names specific to a Tribal community (such as Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives, MMDR, in the Navajo Nation); each acronym represents the generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives that have mourned missing or murdered loved ones. Working together can help bring healing and justice.
Learn more on our American Indian & Alaska Native Victim Services Resources microsite, on the Human Trafficking Capacity Building Center website, and on the Center's Resource Library.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: I see the faces of the women who haven't come home yet.
Looking at the impact of violence in our communities and the high rates of sexual violence, domestic violence, the high rates of trafficking, and the intersections with poverty and racism and homelessness and all of the things that make this issue more challenging to address.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: This is not just an Alaska Native, an American Indian issue.
This is a people issue.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: There isn't just one story.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: We had a young man in my community who was just amazing. And then at some point just disappeared, and ... they found him a year later in the flats. And we don't know what happened. We certainly don't know the circumstances, but there was serious suspicion of trauma and other things that may have happened.
But every story is like that.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: The reality is it can happen to any of us. These are important members of our community.
These are our relatives, our mothers, our grandmas, our sisters, our aunties.
This is not about something that the victim did. This is not about poor lifestyle choices. This is about a decision that the perpetrator made to cause harm to another individual.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: How do we heal?
NICOLE MATTHEWS: Healing comes when we have culturally specific Tribal strategies to address healing.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: Bringing families into a place where they're back to healing and communities into a place where they're back to healing.
KRISTINA ROSE: The Office for Victims of Crime is a federal agency that's dedicated to ensuring healing and justice for victims of all crimes.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: Our perpetrators are coming from many different populations.
We needed to have a venue where we could listen to Tribes and we could hear what were the missing and murdered Indigenous persons stories in their communities.
KRISTINA ROSE: We have an obligation to work as hard as we can to make sure that the voices of Tribal communities are heard and that we continue to listen.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: The Tribes came with incredible, heart wrenching stories, but they also came with solutions and needs.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: We need more coordination with law enforcement on reservations. Our jurisdiction is very complicated.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: There are 229 Tribes in the State of Alaska, and they cover an area of over
600,000 acres, which literally equates to about 20 percent of the continental U.S. Most of them are only reachable by plane or by boat.
We have 80 communities that are just listed as having no law enforcement whatsoever.
We're waiting hours, sometimes days, for somebody to show up.
KRISTINA ROSE: There's so much more to do. When a loved one is murdered or missing, it doesn't just impact the loved ones of that victim, it impacts entire communities.
This trauma just doesn't go away.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: When something happens, we're gonna respond, we're going to report it, and we're going to stand up and say it's not okay.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: And now in Minnesota, a huge win is that we have the first ever Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office in our state government.
It's permanent funding. It will not go away.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: People are talking to each other. People are discussing these issues. They are solving problems with each other.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: We have heard from Indigenous women that they want services by Native women and for Native women. They need to know that they can come to us and that we are a safe space for them.
KRISTINA ROSE: We have expanded our guidance so that we can provide the assistance that the families and loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous people need. Whether or not it's been determined that a crime has occurred.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: It gives me hope to see our state, Tribal, federal people that are responding to this issue.
KRISTINA ROSE: What gives me hope is that I know that change is possible.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: This job has been all about hope. The relationships that we've developed, the ability to have these conversations has been so important.
KRISTINA ROSE: Working together and working hand-in-hand with our Tribal partners, we will be able to put in place the change that needs to happen.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: We have an incredible group of people coming up behind us who are going to keep pushing this.
E. INGRID CUMBERLIDGE: And it really comes down to resilience. Our Tribal people we're incredibly resilient.
NICOLE MATTHEWS: That always gives me hope.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.