Two tribes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are among a select group chosen to participate in a national pilot program addressing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic.
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community join tribes in six other states to find more effective ways to report MMIW cases.
Developing A More Efficient Response Plan
The pilot program aims to help tribal communities create and implement a response plan that follows FBI guidelines through a database. Overall, this program shows how victim families, the media, and law enforcement agencies can better respond to MMIW cases.
Michigan’s program coordinator in the U.S. Department of Justice, Joal Postma, says he nominated the UP tribes because of their proximity to the international border.
Part of the pilot program’s initiative is collaborating to provide more accurate information on missing and murdered Native American women. Jamie Moran, the director of the Sault Tribe’s Advocacy Resource Center, says, “a collaborative effort is necessary to resolve and end the crisis.”
To do this, a more inclusive and accurate database was implemented for the tribes’ communities. Michigan introduced the collaborative database in August 2021.
One objective is to get the federal government to include tribal citizenship as an ethnicity option for missing and murdered people in the database. Since it was created and announced to the public, a flood of information for MMIW cases has been reported.
In fact, the database led to finding two missing Michigan girls who human traffickers took. Essentially, the database has already proven practical and valuable in a short period.
The Need For More MMIW Programs & Efforts
The need for more programs like the one recently implemented in Michigan is pressing to say the least. Rates of murder, rape and other violent crimes are significantly higher amongst Native Americans than the national average.
On top of that, the statistics are disproportionately higher for Native women, which is of great concern in Michigan. According to the World Population Review, Michigan ranks 7th in the country for missing persons.
“Right now, nobody knows how many Native American people are missing across the United States. That to me is outrageous,” Moran attests. Given that MMIW are often underreported, the need for a collaborative database is critical. As it’s already proven, it can help find more of these victims.
The pilot program and new databases recently incorporated into Michigan’s justice system have quickly proven effective. Making MMIW cases a more collaborative effort draws more awareness to the epidemic. Also, it ensures the tribes don’t have to take on the cases on their own.
Hopefully, the pilot program’s success influences more states around the country to do the same.