By TRIBAL NEWS STAFF

September 9, 2019 – The Seattle City Council passed a resolution addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Seattle.

In last year’s report by Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), the research arm of Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB), there were 74 cases of MMIWG in Seattle since 2000—the highest rate for any city in the nation. Washington state ranked the second highest in number.

Debora Juarez, Seattle City Councilmember and Blackfeet Nation Tribal member, spoke on the measure, claiming its existence “urgent.” She went on to explain the ways in which the resolution addresses MMIWG in Seattle, saying, “Number one, we decolonize the data by improving data collection and reporting methods. We will be working with Chief Best, Mayor Durkan, City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.”

The Seattle City Council is urging the City to create a new way to track these cases. Earlier this year, Washington State Patrol released a report that
found fewer cases than UIHI’s report. Coming under scrutiny, the Native community and their advocates claimed these numbers were almost certainly an undercount, as a result of the persistent barriers to data collection.

Washington State Patrol’s report did highlight the lack of inter-governmental communication that has persistently been a problem in tracking cases of MMIWG, as well as a lack of cultural understanding and trust of law enforcement – issues that UIHI’s report also found.

This resolution attempts to address these issues, and find solutions for homelessness and poverty in Seattle’s Native population, and support for HIV and AIDS programs at organizations like SIHB.

“The city can provide direct health care and behavioral services for American Indian, Alaska Native patients impacted by violence and sexual assault,” Juarez said.

The heartfelt testimony and public comments from Juarez and Native community members brought tears in the meeting room. Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw summed up the overwhelming emotions of the day, saying, “To the people who are here today who have been invisible, you are very much visible. Your stories have just broken through.”

The resolution has indeed allowed Native stories to break into the forefront of people’s minds. However, specific legislation and accountability measures will be needed to create the impact Washington’s Native communities need.