Seattle Indian Health Board Salutes Steps by City Council to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis

Councilmember Debora Juarez speaks about the resolution she introduced to the Seattle City Council.

Published September 11, 2019

Resolution could serve as model for cities across the nation

SEATTLE — Seattle Indian Health Board and other Native organizations today applauded Seattle City Council for passing a resolution that acknowledges the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) crisis in Seattle, “the disproportionally high rate of violence against women of indigenous communities,” and the City’s responsibility to “protect its most vulnerable populations.”

Resolution 31900 was introduced by Councilmember Debora Juarez, an enrolled Blackfeet tribal member, and passed 9-0 by Seattle City Council on Monday.

“The City of Seattle should be an example for the rest of the country in putting MMIWG policy in place,” said Esther Lucero, CEO of Seattle Indian Health Board. “We will continue to advocate for change at local, state, and federal levels. We will need more leaders like Councilmember Debora Juarez to work with us to ensure our communities are safe.”

The resolution calls on the Mayor of Seattle to drive community-led systemic reform that holds City departments accountable to engage with Seattle’s urban Indian community and build partnerships that promote stronger government-to-government relations with tribes.

The resolution also states the intention to improve the city’s data collection and reporting practices on crime and missing persons, deliver sustainable investments that address the MMIWG crisis, promote Indigenous and community-led approaches to end violence against Native women and girls, and encourage the Seattle Police Department to make efforts to improve relationships with Indigenous communities in consultation with Seattle Indian Health Board.

“The fight against the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis has deeply impacted me and other members of Indigenous communities,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez, Chair of the Civic Development, Public Assets, and Native Communities Committee.

“Due to the effective advocacy of thousands of Native women and girls calling for justice, our voices are finally being heard,” she added. “In taking action today, we are addressing a national crisis on a local level. We will now align the City’s considerable resources towards correcting a historical pattern of indifference and ineffectiveness. We are lucky to be joined in our local efforts by Seattle Indian Health Board and its research division, Urban Indian Health Institute, as they are national leaders in the fight against the MMIWG crisis. We must act decisively in face of such injustice.”

In 2018, Urban Indian Health Institute released Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls: A snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United Statesa report that revealed that Seattle had 45 combined missing and murder cases – the highest number of any city in the study. The state of Washington had 71 combined cases, second only to New Mexico, which had 78.

There are currently four pieces of federal legislation and nine bills in eight states that include policies to address various issues surrounding the MMIWG epidemic, including data tracking, policing, jurisdiction, and accountability, among others.

“For too long, we have ignored the devastating reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women here in the Puget Sound region and across our entire country,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “My upcoming budget will support new investments for Seattle Police Department to combat this crisis.”

“To the families who have endured tragedy and heartbreak: We are standing with you and are inspired by your bravery,” she added. “I also thank my friend Councilmember Debora Juarez for her leadership on this issue and for calling for change to protect Indigenous women and their communities.”

To further invest in community-based policing, Mayor Durkan’s 2020 Proposed Budget will create a dedicated Native American community liaison in the Seattle Police Department to provide culturally responsive services to Indigenous communities navigating the criminal legal system. This position builds off of Councilmember Debora Juarez’s resolution to deliver on investments that address the MMIWG crisis.

Seattle Urban Native Nonprofit (SUNN) Collaborative, a coalition of 14 Native-led organizations, also praised Councilmember Juarez and the resolution.

“For centuries, our missing and murdered loved ones have been invisible to—and our communities ignored by—police and government agencies at all levels,” said the SUNN Collaborative in a statement.

“As a coalition of urban Indian-serving organizations who advocate for the health and success of Seattle’s urban Indian community, we seek partners who are willing to work with us to find solutions, as well as acknowledge our resilience and capacity to serve our community. Councilmember Debora Juarez has done all of these things, and because she looks like us, stands by us, and listens to us, her resolution outlines steps we must take to address MMIWG in Seattle. If this plan is fully envisioned through future legislation, Seattle will be the template that other cities across the country can look to.”

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