Native American women and girls know their heritage puts them at risk. They tell each other to take care. They all know it is easy for someone to take them and kill them and get away with it.
Preyed upon by attackers, rapists and killers familiar with the empty reaches of reservations, the patchwork of jurisdictions, the disregard of some and the silence of others, they are in danger just for being a Native woman or girl.
The statistics are grim.
A report from the National Institute of Justice found that more than four out of five Native American women have experienced violence in their lives. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that homicide is the third leading cause of death among Native American women between the ages of 10 and 24. The Department of Justice has reported Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans.
On the 1.3-million-acre Yakama Reservation, women have passed down stories from as far back as the mid-1800s of rape and murder by miners, by soldiers, by other outsiders. The passage of time does not diminish the terror of these assaults, which continue today.
No one knows exactly how many Native girls and women have gone missing on or near the Yakama reservation.
Many cases of missing people or mysterious deaths of women and men remain unsolved. During an FBI investigation spurred by rumors of a serial killer, investigators found as many as 32 cases dating back to 1980.
But some women are ending their silence. What has been known and considered normal is no longer tolerable.
They want action.
The work has begun, but it’s a steep climb. There is virtually no record of exactly how many indigenous women are missing in Washington and the United States. Legislation signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2018 is designed to find ways of better reporting and investigating cases of missing Native women, and other states are following suit.
Much work still needs to be done to protect Native women, and many questions must be answered. It’s a start, supporters say ̶ a start that encourages those who still wonder what happened to their loved ones and hope to save others.
They are missing and murdered Native women and girls, mothers and grandmothers, daughters and sisters, aunties, friends.
They have names. They have stories. And they are no longer invisible.
Dozens of women have disappeared in and around the Yakama reservation
For families a long search and a lonely vigil, with little help.
One effort to make sure the state starts to pay attention to this problem.
What to know and who to call if someone you know vanishes.
Have you been touched by this issue? Is one of your friends or family members among the vanished? Do you think law enforcement has done enough to solve these cases? Share your thoughts here.