Wash. state representative proposes new alert system for missing Indigenous women and girls_freckle removal device

Wash. state representative proposes new alert system for missing Indigenous women and girlsWashington state Democratic representative Debra Lekanoff is trying to set up an Amber Alert-type system for Native American women who go missing in her state.

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System would deliver critical info about missing Indigenous women throughout the state, says Debra Lekanoff

CBC Radio(Helen Pike/CBC)

Lekanoff likens her proposed system to the Silver Alerts used for missing people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. She said it could deliver details about missing Indigenous women to Washingtonians through news broadcasts, highway alert systems and cellphones. 

Lekanoff said this system would symbolically amplify the "unheard screams of the impact of what's happening and occurring on this crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women."

"My daughter should know that when she goes out at night, she should not be fearful of her life — as is every daughter, every grandmother and every young lady to yet to come."

An ongoing crisis

In a study of 506 unique casesof missing and murdered Indigenous women, the Urban Indian Health Institute — a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board — found that the Pacific Northwest and Alaska had among the highest number of cases in the United States. 

Among individual states, the UIHI found that Washington and Alaska alone made up just over 24 per cent of the cases.

"Native American women go missing four times as much as a white woman in Washington state," Lekanoff said.

It is a crisis [within] the United States and Canada. It is a crisis that every citizen should be aware of.-Debra Lekanoff

Additional barriers muffle the voices of many of these women, she added — sometimes even after their bodies have been found.

"When you come across a murder victim, right on the … Washington State coroner's card, there isn't even a checkbox for 'Native American,'" she explained. "So many of these women get marked as another race — and we never know, and they're never found."

She also noted a low awareness of the "atrocity of the history of Native American women," thanks in part to the American mainstream news media's lack of coverage on the issue.

The problem exists in Canada, too, according to Marion Buller, the former chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

"There's a 24-hour news cycle, and then it's gone," she said. "We have to — as all Canadians, but especially editorial boards — have to say … this is newsworthy, and we're going to cover it."

WATCH: Author Hira Ali discusses 'affinity bias' in media coverage of gender-based violence

Expert discusses 'affinity bias' in media coverage of gender-based violence

4 months agoDuration 7:19Author Hira Ali discusses the 'attention gap' between media coverage of missing and murdered white women and women of colour.FULL EPISODE: The Current for Jan. 25, 2022

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