On Saturday, November 5th, the University of Colorado Boulder Volunteer Resource Center hosted a mailing campaign for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and twin spirit relatives. It included an education presentation by Amanda Griffin Linsenmeyer, the interim senior director of CU’s Center for Inclusion and Social Change, and Lila Crank, a senior undergraduate and first-year masters candidate at the university.
According to a recent Urban Indian Health Institute study referenced in the presentation, 94% of Native women surveyed in Seattle said they had been raped or coerced at least once in their lives. The presenters cited another survey by the Sovereign Bodies Institute and the California Rural Indian Health Board, which found that 93% of Indigenous LGBTQ and Two Spirit respondents had experienced sexual assault.
Two-Spirit is a pan-Indian umbrella term for gender-nonconforming indigenous peoples, according to the Indian Health Service.
“There’s a special invisibility when two or more oppressions intersect and encroach on a person’s identity or identities,” Crank said. “So indigeneity would be an identity that would be seen as subjugated or controlled, but also an identity of being a woman or a queer or dual-spirited person creates a second layer of vulnerability.”
Moderators said this vulnerability prompted a somber federal response.
“Since 2016 [around] 5,700 local women and girls were reported missing, but only 116 cases were added to the federal missing persons database,” said Linsenmeyer.
The presentation also addressed certain fears and barriers that communities have when approaching the police to report incidents of violence or a missing person.
“One of the biggest things we saw was a lack of trust in law enforcement, which significantly reduces reporting rates,” Crank said.
Additionally, the moderators said that typical police response protocol, such as waiting before declaring a person missing, can deter people from contacting law enforcement.
However, Indigenous communities have worked to address the lack of resources for families of missing persons through self-advocacy.
“We share when our relatives go missing. And sometimes that can be really, really bad. And it’s also spreading that word in ways that our community doesn’t always get from local, state, and national resources,” said Linsenmeyer.
Following the presentation, Crank and Linsemeyer invited viewers to read the stories of missing indigenous people that were scattered around the room. They asked members to write five letters each to state and local officials.
“Any missing person should be a problem,” said Linsenmeyer. “Every missing person is someone’s relative, so as indigenous people we should also be a problem if we go missing.”
Contact CU independent contributor Ann Marie Vanderveen at email@example.com.