State Bill Would Commission Study of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Mar 27, 2019

Arizona has the third highest number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in the U.S. A bill in the state legislature would commission a first-of-its kind study to show the causes and possible solutions to the epidemic. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Demonstrators marched in Phoenix in January 2018 in honor of Navajo mother Nicole Joe, who died on Christmas Day 2017 in a domestic violence dispute in Flagstaff.
Credit Jenni Monet/PBS News Hour

Authorities say existing data is lacking on missing and murdered indigenous women. No comprehensive study has ever been done statewide or on a national level, and the Arizona bill aims to fill in the information gaps of why violence against Native women is up to 10 times higher than the national average.

"The fact that we are just now first starting to talk about it in 2019 I think echoes the problem. This is something that has been happening in our country for centuries. Indigenous women have gone missing throughout the entire history of the United States," says Tempe Democrat Jennifer Jermaine who introduced the bill.

Human trafficking, sex trade and domestic violence are all contributing factors.  Jermaine says another major hurdle in understanding the full scope of the situation is poor communication between tribal, county, municipal and state law enforcement agencies. When the study is complete a task force will recommend legislation and other measures.

The Arizona bill was recently passed unanimously by the state House is now under consideration in the Senate. If it becomes law it would dovetail with an effort in the U.S. House to combat missing and murdered indigenous women on a federal level.