Remembering Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., joins the Oneida community in a walk commemorating Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person's Awareness today on the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

By Ernest L. Stevens, Jr.

Washington, D.C. – May 05, 2021 – On Tuesday, May 4th, 2021, President Biden formally issued a proclamation declaring May 5th, 2021, as “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.” Throughout Indian country and tribal communities, we all have experienced and remember the thousands of young women and girls who sadly go missing each year. These beautiful women are sometimes our daughters and mothers in the community, and just one missing person can impact an entire reservation. President Biden proclaimed, "I call on all Americans and ask all levels of government to support Tribal governments and Tribal communities' efforts to increase awareness of the issue of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives through appropriate programs and activities."

On April 1st, 2021, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland announced a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The MMU will help put the full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases and marshal law enforcement resources across federal agencies and throughout Indian country.

May 5th has become a national day for our Tribal Governments, Native organizations, advocates, and activists in Indian Country to commemorate the “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” Focusing our efforts and raising awareness about this crisis is the Native Communities response to the lack of resources put forth in finding our missing and murdered Indigenous women. President Biden's proclamation and Secretary Haaland's formation of the MMU further acknowledge the Biden administration's commitment to be an excellent partner to Indian country and face this crisis head-on with the full cooperation and coordination from our Tribal Governments.

Today, throughout tribal communities, gatherings of recognition and remembrance are taking place. We are called upon to wear red in remembrance as a symbol to call attention further and raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in North America. In my home community, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, we came together today for the Oneida Nation All Women Are Sacred, Protect our sacred beings – “Stop MMIW” walk for missing and murdered Indigenous women and many showed up in support. It was a powerful moment.

On this Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, the National Indian Gaming Association and our Tribal membership join the broader Tribal community to bring awareness to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This will remain a sacred day until we can ensure the day when all indigenous women and girls are safe everywhere.