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For Those We Have Lost

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Antonio R. Renteria
September 11, 2023

In May of this year, the Confederation of Round Valley Tribes declared a State of Emergency (KRCR-ABC) due to the steady march of tragedies the community has experienced year after year. 

A Round Valley High School student was found, dead, sending pain and reigniting trauma of the family of the deceased and throughout the tribal confederation and the entire county. While the motivations behind this specific tragic and unnecessary loss of life are important for law enforcement to understand, that will not be discussed here. Instead, I would like to bring to your attention a growing movement hoping to stop these tragedies from ever occurring.  

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)—while the project of many nonprofit organizations such as Native Hope in South Dakota as a means to address the incongruous rate at which native or indigenous women are murdered, abducted or sexually assaulted in the United States—the movement itself first gained traction in Canada as part of a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Now, in the United States, there is a loose coalition of different nonprofit organizations that prioritize the safety and wellbeing of indigenous women such as the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) or the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC). All efforts to this end are now termed as part of the MMIW Movement, and all are worthy of continued support. Indigenous women experience sexual violence at a rate twice that of any other group of women, and on some reservations the murder rate for native women is more than ten times that of the national average (Elle). 

The struggle to seek justice for MMIW has existed for as long as indigenous women have been victims of assault, kidnapping and murder. In this part of the United States (the west coast) it has been a two-hundred-year problem with little to no intervention from State or Federal governments (Elle). In fact, when the government does intervene it may undermine local efforts as with Public Law 280 which requires State Law Enforcement to investigate major crimes in most states, all without additional funding for the mandate (CBS). The hope with continued awareness to this issue is that both the State and Federal government will commit to funding these mandates. 

The movement to bring awareness to MMIW has culminated in a months-long observance of these tragedies during the month of May. The local county Board of Supervisors declared May 5th as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Day (KZYX), and similar decrees have been granted statewide in California. However, awareness and acknowledgement of these tragedies goes beyond one day or one month. To bring further awareness to your own communities, or simply to learn more about the movement, consider joining or donating to one of the many organizations that is combatting this crisis. For further reading on this subject click on the links throughout this article or see below: 

What is the MMIW Movement? – We R Native 

Native American Women Deserve to Be Counted (elle.com) 

‘Turning pain into power’ | Family of MMIW Launches Beauty and Self-Defense Line | Currents (nativenewsonline.net) Unseen: Missing, murdered Indigenous women in California part of nationwide crisis – CBS Sacramento (cbsnews.com)

Author: Antonio R. Renteria has served as the Civil Rights Coordinator and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at the Mendocino County Department of Social Services in January of 2022. Antonio graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Sonoma State University in 2019, and with a degree in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame, du Lac in 2013. Antonio was born and raised in Mendocino County and takes great pride in returning to serve the very community that gave him so much.

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