top of page

MMIW - The Problem of Cross-Jurisdiction

#mmiw  #mmiwg  #somebodysdaughter  #NotInvisible

GPTCA logo for GIC web.jpg
RMTLC logo.png
Not our Native Daughters logo.jpg

In North America, the US-Canadian border continues to impede any substantial progress on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) & Two Spirit tragedy. It is a priority of GIC to proactively work on initiatives to reduce the terrible toll of this catastrophe on our communities. A lack of effective cooperation exists not only between law enforcement agencies, but also between tribal nations, due to the status-quo of jurisdictional paralysis.


The problem does not stop at, or differ, on each side of the US-Canadian border: it is the same problem with the same tragic impacts on our communities. The traffickers don’t stop at the border, and we cannot.


GIC has measures that can be implemented - and undertaken - expeditiously, in anticipation of cross-jurisdictional cooperation.


In the US, GIC supports Savanna’s Act, named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a citizen of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was murdered in August 2017. We thank Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) for her commitment and tireless advocacy in pushing for legislative change.


Like all MMIW victims, Savanna was a human being, not a statistic. The Savanna’s Act is a positive step forward, but this unremitting devastation requires that we build upon cross-jurisdictional data sharing that is at the heart of the Act. Inter-jurisdictional cooperation is essential, though for tribal nations and tribal law enforcement, the question of jurisdiction itself, and the training, investment, and overhaul of tribal law enforcement structures to effectively counter the crisis, is a pressing need. That on some reservations Native women are murdered at a rate ten times the national average, and that 84% of Native women have endured assaults in their lifetimes, speaks to the urgency for change.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (center) and N

Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (center) and Naomi Miguel (right) of the Tohono O'odham Nation Legislative Assistant to Congressman Raul Grijalva 

“There’s the healing that we need to do as a community and then there’s the fighting that we need to do as a community. There are policies being passed in states today that are coordinated attacks; they are coordinated attacks because women have been gaining power and exerting their power. These policies are not random. This is a push back from corporations and corporate society that feeds on women as being expendable – and indigenous women as being the most expendable of all. For decades we have lived without laws that protect women. When you can murder an indigenous woman and get probation, that is not random, that is how the system was set up. While we need to mourn and heal and say the names of the victims, we also need to fight. We need to fight these policies that say you can get a slap on the wrist if you murder an indigenous woman. Those policies are coordinated attacks, and they are not just targeting indigenous women, they’re attacking all indigenous people who stand up for our rights. We’re going to expose the politicians who push this and we’re going to shut it down. They are feeling the threat of indigenous communities and indigenous women standing up to say that we are going to hold our ground.”

Ozawa Bineshi Albert.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS)


Sharice Davids (D-KS), one of the first Native American women in history to be elected to Congress, with

one of our MMIWG campaign boards.

Fundamentals of proposed legislation submitted by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association,

and Global Indigenous Council can be seen here

Native communities' trust and confidence in law enforcement must be addressed and improved.


Be they johns who victimize trafficked indigenous women or photofit perps, the preponderance of assailants who prey on Native women have something in common - they are not Native.

In a comprehensive report on MMIW, Lisa J. Ellwood dismantled the assumption once promoted by Canada’s RCMP that Native women are largely victimized by Native men.   

Among trafficked Native women in Minnesota, approximately 78% of “clients” were white, which is consistent with findings that reveal how, among the general population of Native women, 67% of rapes suffered by Native women are committed by non-Natives, 80% of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Natives, and  that, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), 86% of all reported sex crimes against Native women are perpetrated by non-Natives. DOJ data also indicates that in the region of 90% of pimps and traffickers of Native women are non-Native.

For more than a decade, the DOJ has estimated that Native women are around 2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault when compared to the general population. “Under the current Violence Against Women Act, a Native victimized by a non-Native offender has no recourse for justice in tribal courts,” writes Ellwood, which underscores the need to revisit the question of jurisdiction with the intention of reconstituting it. “When one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes, that is an assault on our national conscience,” declared former President Obama, “it is an affront to our shared humanity; it is something that we cannot allow to continue.”

But it does continue, and it is facilitated by ineptitude not just in some of the highest offices in Washington, DC., but in similar halls of authority throughout the Americas and beyond. The obstructionism of former House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who blocked Savanna’s Act in committee to ensure that the Act would not pass in the 115th Congress, exemplifies those failures. MMIWG is not a right or left issue – it is a human rights issue. A 2014 RCMP report revealed that between 1980 and 2012, some 1,181 indigenous women went missing or were known to have been murdered.

In Canada, Native women are six times more likely to be the victims of homicide. On the other side of the world, a 2012 Australian Institute of Criminology report found that nationally, First Nation Australian women were also six times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women. In some areas of Australia, indigenous women are 80 times more likely to be victims of violence.


Seemingly, irrespective of the continent, today’s “man camps” of the “drill, baby frack” corporate barons are yesterday’s trading posts, mining squats, and the railroad’s “hell-on-wheels,” though in sections of the Amazon, those mining squats remain.

We cannot wait for these jurisdictional and administrative processes to be remedied; we must begin to act now, and work through the bureaucracy as we take our own, proactive measures.  So the Global Indigenous Council, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association is initiating a unified, cross-border awareness campaign in January 2019. Our message will appear across Indian Country and beyond on billboards targeted in the areas where high incidences of MMIWG tragedies are known to occur.

We are beginning the process of making this tragedy impossible to ignore, and by doing so, inspire action – real and constructive action – not just talk and commissions. This billboard imagery and campaign will contribute to bringing the MMIWG tragedy to the fore in the public conscience. The more exposure to this campaign, the greater the impact – let us all commit to this endeavor and speak in one voice for those who have been silenced, and those who continue to suffer in silence.

Senator Daines marches with Tina HasThe

Senator Daines marches with Tina HasThe Eagle and Theresa Brien of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council.

Deb Haaland at the Capital Building with

Congresswoman Deb Haaland stands in front of the Capital Building with the #MMIW billboard

MMIW El Reno  Main Long Billboard-sm.jpg
bottom of page