DALLAS — For the first time, some buildings in downtown Dallas will light up red for National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day on Wednesday.
The MMIW TX Rematriate organization will also gather to remember those who are missing or have been killed at the West Dallas Gateway Plaza with a traditional song and dance.
The Urban Indian Health Institute report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls of 2020 found at least 506 cases of MMIWG. The report indicated due to limited resources and poor data, cases are likely higher.
“A lot of the time we deal with reports misidentifying our ethnicity and race and things like that,” said Jodi Voice Yellowfish of MMIW TX Rematriate organization.
The location of where the women go missing and where the report is filed, determines who will have jurisdiction over the case. Tribal police departments do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native people. In other instances, the case may be investigated by a federal agency.
“That just prolongs the entire process and literally cases get lost in that shuffle and that’s basically where MMIW organizations came from,” said Yellowfish.
MMIW organizations try to bridge the gap between law enforcement, families and media to find the individual. The organization is also helping create dialogue in the community on human trafficking, internet safety and has plans to host a self-defense class.
Yellowfish said women of the Indigenous community are sought after by human traffickers because of their looks which can represent other ethnicities.
“That disposability factor that’s put on our lives because of how society sees us. Basically we are utilized as mascots. We’re dismissed on different levels and that truly dictates how the world sees us and works with us,” said Yellowfish.
In the last five years, Yellowfish said there has been some progress. Individuals outside of the Indigenous community have become aware of the issue of MMIW. This year President Joe Biden proclaimed May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.
May 5 is also Hanna Harris’ birthday, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. Harris was killed in 2013. She was last seen on July 4, 2013 and her body was discovered four days later.