The Modern Trail of Tears: The MMIW Crisis

Graham Hynes ’22

 As the oppression of Native people has reached the public spotlight around the world and here at Berkshire, it is an opportune time to present other issues surrounding Indigenous people that haven’t received the attention that they need and deserve. 

 One of these issues is the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis (MMIWC). According to a study conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute, across 71 urban cities, 5,712 native women and girls were reported either missing or dead in 2016 alone. Of all these cases, only 116 of these cases were logged in a Department of Justice database. This failure to take cases involving native women seriously is consistent with the devastating lack of legal action towards finding justice for the 4 out of every 5 women or children who are victims of sexual violence. 

 The Urban Indian Health Institute study’s goal was “to demonstrate the ways in which these issues also impact urban MMIWC cases, highlighting the results of a deeply flawed institutional system rooted in colonial relationships that marginalize and disenfranchise people of color and remains complicit in violence targeting American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls.” 

 This case concludes that “if we rely solely on law enforcement or media for an awareness or understanding of the issue,” the public is likely to develop an inaccurate and eurocentric idea of what colonialism’s modern implications.

 As the media continues to struggle with taking the stories of native women seriously, it is important to recognize the disproportionate struggle that native people, women above all, have been forced to endure. When encountered with the wrongdoings of European ancestors, too many are reluctant to start a conversation claiming that it was too long ago to maintain relevance in today’s society. 

 While the original instances of systemic racism towards native peoples were established and carried out over three hundred years ago, the effects and fallout of these decisions are still relevant and affect thousands every year causing the native voice in this country to go unheard.