The Crisis of Missing Native American Girls: A Hidden Epidemic


The crisis of missing Native American girls is a critical and often overlooked issue in the United States. Despite growing awareness, the magnitude of this problem remains largely hidden from the public eye, exacerbated by historical neglect, systemic inequalities, and jurisdictional complexities. This blog post aims to shed light on the crisis, explore its root causes, and discuss potential solutions to bring justice and safety to Native American communities.

Michelle Elbow Shield Missing Native American

Historical Context and Systemic Neglect

Native American communities have long faced systemic neglect and discrimination, rooted in centuries of colonization and marginalization. This historical context has fostered a cycle of poverty, violence, and inadequate access to essential services. Understanding this background is crucial to comprehending the depth and persistence of the crisis of missing Native American girls.

1. Historical Trauma and Colonization:

  • Colonization brought violence, displacement, and cultural disruption to Native American tribes, leading to intergenerational trauma.
  • Policies such as the Indian Removal Act and the establishment of reservations disrupted traditional lifestyles and governance structures.

2. Systemic Inequality:

  • Native American communities often lack access to quality healthcare, education, and economic opportunities.
  • High rates of poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence create a precarious environment for young Native American girls.

The Magnitude of the Crisis

The exact number of missing Native American girls is difficult to determine due to underreporting, inadequate data collection, and lack of media attention. However, available statistics paint a grim picture.

1. Alarming Statistics:

  • According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, there were 5,712 reported cases of missing Native American women and girls in 2016, but only 116 were logged in the Department of Justice’s database.
  • Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience violence than any other ethnic group in the United States.

2. Underreporting and Data Gaps:

  • Many cases go unreported due to distrust in law enforcement and fear of retaliation.
  • Inconsistent data collection practices across jurisdictions make it challenging to obtain accurate figures.

Root Causes of the Crisis

To address the crisis effectively, it is essential to understand its root causes, which are multifaceted and deeply intertwined with the historical and socio-economic context of Native American communities.

1. Jurisdictional Complexities:

  • Legal jurisdiction on tribal lands is often divided among federal, state, and tribal authorities, leading to confusion and delays in investigations.
  • The Major Crimes Act and Public Law 280 complicate the prosecution of crimes on tribal lands.

2. Socio-Economic Challenges:

  • High rates of poverty and unemployment in Native American communities increase vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking.
  • Limited access to education and healthcare services hinders opportunities for young girls and increases their susceptibility to violence.

3. Cultural Disconnection:

  • The erosion of cultural practices and community bonds due to historical trauma contributes to a loss of identity and support systems.
  • Efforts to revitalize and preserve cultural heritage are crucial for strengthening community resilience.
Ashley Loring Heavy Runner Missing Since 2017

The Role of Law Enforcement and Policy Failures

Law enforcement agencies and policy frameworks have often failed to protect Native American girls effectively, exacerbating the crisis.

1. Inadequate Law Enforcement Response:

  • Limited resources and personnel on tribal lands hinder timely and thorough investigations.
  • Cultural misunderstandings and biases within law enforcement agencies contribute to a lack of urgency in addressing these cases.

2. Policy Shortcomings:

  • Federal and state policies often fail to prioritize the safety and welfare of Native American girls.
  • Recent initiatives, such as Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, aim to improve data collection and interagency coordination but require robust implementation and funding.

Community Efforts and Grassroots Movements

Despite systemic challenges, Native American communities and grassroots organizations are actively working to combat the crisis and support affected families.

1. Grassroots Advocacy:

  • Organizations like the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) provide advocacy, education, and support services.
  • Community-led initiatives, such as the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement, raise awareness and push for policy changes.

2. Cultural Revitalization:

  • Revitalizing cultural practices and traditions strengthens community bonds and provides a sense of identity and belonging.
  • Programs that incorporate traditional healing practices and cultural education offer holistic support to survivors and their families.

Potential Solutions and Path Forward

Addressing the crisis of missing Native American girls requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that involves all stakeholders, including government agencies, law enforcement, and Native American communities.

1. Enhancing Law Enforcement Collaboration:

  • Improve interagency coordination and data sharing among federal, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
  • Increase funding and resources for tribal law enforcement to ensure timely and thorough investigations.

2. Policy Reforms:

  • Fully implement and fund Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act to enhance data collection and improve the response to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
  • Develop policies that prioritize the safety and welfare of Native American girls and address socio-economic disparities.

3. Community Empowerment:

  • Support grassroots organizations and community-led initiatives that provide advocacy, education, and support services.
  • Invest in programs that promote cultural revitalization, education, and economic opportunities for Native American communities.

4. Public Awareness and Education:

  • Increase public awareness about the crisis through media campaigns, educational programs, and community events.
  • Encourage mainstream media to cover cases of missing Native American girls and highlight the systemic issues contributing to the crisis.


The crisis of missing Native American girls is a profound and pressing issue that demands immediate and sustained action. By addressing the root causes, enhancing law enforcement collaboration, implementing policy reforms, empowering communities, and raising public awareness, we can work towards a future where Native American girls are safe, valued, and protected. It is a collective responsibility to ensure that their voices are heard and their lives are safeguarded.

Call to Action

As individuals, we can contribute to this effort by staying informed, supporting advocacy groups, and urging our representatives to prioritize the safety and welfare of Native American girls. Together, we can help bring an end to this hidden epidemic and create a more just and equitable society for all.