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#mmiw  #mmiwg  #somebodysdaughter  #NotInvisible

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Ambassaor Cathy Russell

Catherine M. Russell  - United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues and former chief of staff to the Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden. Ambassador Russell represented Vice President Joe Biden at the MMIW Tribunal in Browning, MT.

Justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families must be a priority

By Cathy Russell

“Who do we turn to?” was the question I heard from the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. For centuries Indigenous women have disappeared and been killed — destroying families, and tearing at the fabric of communities. This epidemic is not new and the list of missing women grows longer each year.

Earlier this month, I heard some of these women’s stories firsthand when I traveled to the Blackfeet Nation for the first-ever U.S. forum on missing and murdered Indigenous women. As the former U.S. ambassador for global women's issues, I’m deeply familiar with the problem of violence against women, but I am always heartbroken by the devastation of those who have experienced this horror.


Every person in the room at the Blackfeet forum felt the raw pain of the families who bravely shared their stories. The families’ requests were fair: they wanted to be treated with respect and they yearned for justice for their loved ones.

Vice President Biden asked me to represent him at the forum because he cares deeply about Indian Country and about ending violence against women and girls. Native American women experience the highest levels of violence in the United States. We don’t even know how many of these women are kidnapped or killed, because the data collection is so poor — a symptom of the disjointed law enforcement effort that leaves families feeling like there is no one to help them.

Justice for these women and their families must be a priority. Vice President Biden believes that tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people. He took that position at the beginning of his career, when he voted as a U.S. Senator to support the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. He took that position in 1994, when he fought — unsuccessfully — to get funding to support tribal governments’ efforts to protect women and girls in Indian Country. And he took that position when he served in the White House, and successfully pushed Congress to narrow the gap in tribal jurisdictions, so that non-native Americans could no longer abuse wives or girlfriends with impunity on tribal lands. The Obama-Biden Administration also held the first-ever trilateral meeting with Canada and Mexico in 2016 on violence against Indigenous women and girls, acknowledging that this is an issue that extends beyond our borders.

Our efforts to address violence against Indigenous women need to be comprehensive. Throughout my career, I have worked with leaders, activists, and government officials around the world on problems facing women, and it has always been clear to me in every country I have visited, that the different challenges women face and the solutions to address those challenges are interrelated. Violence against women cannot be addressed without strong laws, political will, access to health care and victims’ services, and education and opportunity.

The same is true with the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women. There are complex jurisdictional questions, historical trauma, a lack of access to culturally sensitive services, and a lack of resources and support. So while the Vice President supports federal legislation to address these issues — including the “Not Invisible Act,” “Savannah’s Act”, or the “Survive Act” — he understands that, alone, these bills can only do so much: they can give us access to better data, or support tribes in building up their own programs and resources, but on their own don’t take into consideration the complex web of factors that affect Native women’s lives.

Ending the murders and abductions of Indigenous women — helping them find the safety and opportunities all people deserve — will take a comprehensive approach, one that increases federal resources for tribal programs, expands tribal authority, boosts coordination among law enforcement agencies, and improves data collection and exchange.

To get there, we need real leadership and commitment. We need an Administration that will build and expand on the work of the Obama-Biden Administration and its strong collaboration with Indigenous women’s groups. We need more efforts like the MMIW forum, where women and their families can raise their voices and demand that we all come together to fight for justice.

Democratic Presidential 2020 frontrunner, Vice President Joe Biden, was represented at the first-ever Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) tribunal in the US hosted by the Blackfeet Ambassador Catherine M. Russell.

As the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Catherine Russell led the US State Department’s efforts to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls around the world.

In that role, she focused on addressing gender-based violence, promoting women’s full participation in society, investing in adolescent girls, and integrating women’s issues into U.S. foreign policy. 

Prior to assuming the ambassadorship in August 2013, she served as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.

During her tenure at the White House, Ambassador Russell coordinated the development of the Obama Administration’s strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.

She previously served as a Senior Advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on international women’s issues. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, she served as Associate Deputy Attorney General.

We were honored to welcome Ambassador Russell to the Blackfeet Nation and the Global Indigenous Council thanks Vice President Biden for his commitment to addressing this terrible tragedy of MMIWP

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Belinda Bull Shoe, who MC'd the MMIW Tribunal held at the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, MT

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"There is a crisis amongst our tribal nations of missing and murdered indigenous women,

and we will be forever haunted by our failure to act on their behalf. I thank the Global Indigenous Council for their efforts to bring attention and solutions to this issue, including the recent convening of the MMIW Tribunal."

 Congressman Beto O' Rourke (D-TX)

Montana's Congressional Delegation - Sen

“I would like to thank those who have been incredible advocates for Montana’s missing and murdered indigenous women, including the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Global Indigenous Council, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and the Blackfeet Nation.

I appreciate the work you are doing to provide a safe space for survivors and victims’ families to share their experiences.”

  Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

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With the Blackfeet Nation, the Global Indigenous Council recently held the first-ever MMIW Tribunal in the US. The statements of 2020 Presidential candidates and Members of Congress for the tribunal and the continued work of the GIC-RMTLC-GPTCA alliance to secure meaningful legislation to address the MMIW tragedy can be read in full by clicking on the links below.

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“All of the progress we’ve made on this issue is because of you. You’ve demanded attention. You’ve fought for changes to the law, and you continue to fight for the authority to ensure justice and fairness for everyone in your nations. I am grateful for and inspired by your courage, and I look forward to continuing work on this vitally important issue.”

  Vice President Joe Biden,
2020 Presidential Candidate. 

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“To address this problem, I realize that I cannot do it alone. I will work with tribal leaders and collaborate with community partners. My administration will collaborate with community organizations, such as the Global Indigenous Council, to lift up the years of organizing and advocacy, and raise the profile of the issue . . .  Only by elevating this issue and putting resources to address it can we truly secure the safety of indigenous women and girls. When I am elected, you will have a strong ally in this fight in the White House.”               Mayor Pete Buttigieg,
2020 Presidential Candidate

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“Conversations like this one are critical if we want to bring an end to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It’s because of events like this, and the tireless work of folks all across Indian Country, that MMIW has taken its rightful place as a movement that cannot be ignored by those who would rather avoid confronting hard truths.”

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

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“Policy that affects Native American communities must be shaped -- from start to finish -- by tribal leaders who remain on the front lines of critical issues. That is why I stand by the tireless work done by the tribal alliance of the Global Indigenous Council, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. The tribal alliance has boldly forged a path to positive legislative change on Capitol Hill, which crucially includes passing widely supported bipartisan amendments that make Savanna’s Act more effective.”

Tom Steyer,

2020 Presidential Candidate

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM), Co-Spo

“I am honored to provide full support of the Global Indigenous Council on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women crisis. It is my privilege to support your national billboard campaign. With your help we continue to raise awareness so we can end the silence of this crisis!”

 Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM).

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“I’m working hard to lead this fight in the US Senate to raise awareness and find legislative solutions, like the bipartisan Savanna’s Act, that will address the issue head on. I continue to support additional amendments requested by Tribal leaders in Montana that will make Savanna’s Act even stronger.”

 Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).

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“As President, I will bring this crisis to light with the recognition it needs, and to allocate the resources to address it, study it, and to end it. I will work with the Global Indigenous Council, the Blackfeet Nation, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, and any other groups needed to address the causes and underlying roots that drive this crisis. As President, I will work with the Department of Justice to make sure that we can provide the resources and fix the bureaucratic flaws that delay, muddy, or outright stop progress.”

 Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI),

2020 Presidential Candidate.

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