This report is part of the “Hate in America" project produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project by top college journalism students and recent graduates from across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
MISSOULA, Mont. – Native American women across the country are being murdered and sexually assaulted on reservations and nearby towns at far higher rates than other American women. Their assailants are often white and other non-Native American men outside the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement.
In some U.S. counties composed primarily of Native American lands, murder rates of Native American women are up to 10 times higher than the national average for all races, according to a study for the U.S. Department of Justice by sociologists at the University of Delaware and University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Other possible victims have never been found. As of 2016, there were 5,712 cases of missing Native American women reported to the National Crime Information Center.
“The numbers are likely much higher because cases are often under-reported and data isn’t officially collected,” said the U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, who has introduced legislation to improve how law enforcement keeps track of missing and murdered indigenous women.
“(Murder and sexual assault) is a real fear amongst Native American women,” said Lisa Brunner, co-director of Indigenous Women's Human Rights Collective and professor and cultural coordinator at White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen, Minnesota.
“Native American women are victims of violence far greater than any population in the country simply because of who we are as Native women, and what we represent, our tribal nations,” Brunner said.