Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Thursday that creates the first statewide alert system in the country for missing Indigenous people.
The law creates a system similar to the Amber Alert and the so-called Silver Alert, which are used in many states for missing children and vulnerable adults, respectively.
The system will notify law enforcement when a missing indigenous person is reported. It will also place messages on highway reader boards and radio and social media and provide information to the news media.
Law Efforts to address the crisis of missing Indigenous peoples – particularly women – in Washington and across the United States. Although it covers missing men, women, and children, a summary of public testimony on the law notes that “the crisis began as a women’s issue, and it remains primarily a women’s issue.”
A 2021 report by a government watchdog found that the exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the US is unknown due to reporting problems, mistrust of law enforcement, and judicial conflicts. But according to a 2021 summary of existing research by the National Congress of American Indians, Native American women face a murder rate nearly three times that of white women overall — and in some places up to 10 times the national average. More than 80% have experienced violence.
In Washington, four times more Indigenous women go missing than white women, according to research conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle, but many such cases receive little or no media attention.,
An alert system could ease some of the problems surrounding missing indigenous people investigations by allowing better communication between Aboriginal, local and state law enforcement and creating a way for law enforcement to flag such cases for other agencies. Will help The law expands the definition of a “missing endangered person” to include Indigenous people as well as children and vulnerable adults with disabilities or memory or cognitive issues.
This measure is the latest step taken by the state to address the issue. Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force One is working to coordinate the statewide response and its first meeting was held in December. Its first report is expected in August.
Several states, from Arizona to Oregon to Wisconsin, have taken recent action to address the scourge of murder and missing Indigenous women. Efforts include funding for better resources for tribal police to build new databases specifically targeting missing tribal members. Aboriginal police agencies that use Amber Alerts for missing Indigenous children include the Hopi and Las Vegas Paiute.
In California, the Yurok Tribe and Sovereign Bodies Institute, an Indigenous-run research and advocacy group, uncovered 18 cases of Native American women missing or killed. Roughly the past year in his recent work – a number he considers a vast undercount. An estimated 62% of those cases are not listed in state or federal databases for missing persons.