December 9th, 2019 Last Updated on: December 10th, 2019
On November 26th, President Trump signed an executive order instituting a task force on missing and murdered American Indians and Alaskan Natives—an ongoing and complex issue—which will be funded by the Department of Justice.
This seems to be a significant turn-around from last year’s infamous debacle.
November is known as Native American Heritage month and is the anniversary of Trump’s cringe-worthy TV moment, where he made the outrageous speech in which he referred to his opponent Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas. His ignorant and racially-charged comment was heard around the world and shocked many, especially those in Indian Country.
The president has never been recognized as a skillful orator, however last year’s particular speech went viral in seconds and caused concern as many believed he was not truly supportive of American Indian communities and may even hold prejudiced views toward them.
A year later, the tides seem to have changed…
Native American leaders look on, standing proudly behind Trump as he signs the executive order that will optimistically bring hope and peace to many.
What are the hard facts?
- In one solitary year, upwards of 5,000 women and young girls were reported missing with only a significantly small fraction being logged by the Department of Justice.
- Women from Native American communities are ten times more likely to be murdered than the average American.
- One in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetime.
One major flaw in the numbers, especially in urban areas, is that there is missing and misconstrued data as well as a lack in reliability.
“Until there is cooperation and better tracking systems at all government levels, the data on missing and murdered Indigenous women will never be 100 percent accurate, which is what we need to strive for in order to protect our mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunties.” – Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Director, Urban Indian Health Institute
The statistics are staggering and cannot be ignored. The fact that it has taken this long to fully bring this issue to light and get administrative support is troublesome.
Trump admits that the signing of this order should have been done a long time ago—”decades ago” even.
“The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous persons has not only affected families, but it impacts communities,” Second Lady Dottie Lizer of the Navajo Nation said after the event at the White House. “As leaders, we must continue to advocate for safety and justice for Native women and children. Most importantly, we need to address efforts to restore balance, love, and harmony within Native homes and communities.”
Now, for what we are all interested in knowing…
How will President Trump and his administration address this issue?
Taken directly from the White House’s Fact Sheet, or briefing, issued on November 26th, the following are the general plans of the executive order, while the specific details are located within the link provided.
- PROTECT Native American women and children
- ADDRESS the crisis
- SUPPORT tribal communities
One major addition that comes with the executive order is the establishment of Operation Lady Justice, which is “an interagency task force charged with developing an aggressive, government-wide strategy to address the crisis of missing and murdered women and girls in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”
Likewise, there are significant monies that have already been granted, $273.4 million to be exact, that will “improve public safety, serve victims of crime, combat violence against women and support youth programs in Native American communities.”
What are the current views and opinions of those that matter?
There are definitely mixed views about the new executive order and many people wonder if President Trump’s tune has actually changed to a more positive one since last November.
While there are those that are hopeful, many people had negative opinions about the order.
Various people express concern that Urban Indians are being overlooked, especially since there are compelling numbers of missing and murdered women and children from cities, not primarily from reservations.
Some believe that the president is merely trying to win American Indian votes for the upcoming election while others are doubtful of his genuineness and actual concern.
For readers out there who have strong opinions and would like to take action to help this cause, there are various routes you can go:
- Donate or help to raise awareness through the Indian Law Resource Center, which has served Indigeous people since 1978.
- Utilize the Toolkit for Action from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, which will support those in the process of reporting an event.
- Get personally involved in the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.
Only time will tell…
Regardless of public opinion, there is still an ongoing crisis that needs to be solved and the president and his administration are taking a first step in doing so.
For the sake of the millions of missing and murdered American Indian women and children throughout the decades, there are hopes and prayers that the new executive order will truly do what its intentions are: to protect, address, and support—and not just on the surface for all to see.
As a united country, let’s bring our missing women and children back and honor those who have been murdered or forgotten.
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