StrongHearts Native Helpline honors our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives 

StrongHearts Native Helpline

As a helpline dedicated to serving Native Americans and Alaska Natives impacted by domestic, dating, and sexual violence, StrongHearts Native Helpline honors our relatives and communities impacted by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) and those working to end this crisis. 

StrongHearts understands the issues of MMIR are related to domestic, dating and sexual violence. We know that missing and murdered victims can be children, elders, Two-Spirit, men and those with disabilities. This crisis affects all of our relatives.  

Research shows that women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner (husband, boyfriend, same-sex partner, or ex) than by anyone else. Over 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Nationally, across all racial and ethnic groups, approximately two out of five female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner. Homicide is a leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women. Many killings linked to domestic violence occur right after recent breakups or during separations. Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Native peoples also face being killed by strangers. For Native male victims, 12.3 percent of the time, the suspect is a person known to the victim but the exact nature of the relationship was unclear. For Native female victims, 7.9 percent of the time, the suspect was or is a person known to the victim but the exact nature of the relationship was unclear. 

Complicated legal systems, jurisdictional confusion, and lack of resources continue to leave many Native victims of violence and their families without support or justice. Whether the violence is coming from inside the home, or from strangers living near tribal communities or in urban centers, meaningful action must be taken to prevent more of our relatives from going missing or being murdered. Our relatives deserve justice. 

Each year, the MMIR issue gets more visibility in the United States. An important milestone was reached on Nov. 15, 2021 when President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14053, aimed at improving public safety and criminal justice for Native Americans and addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. The Executive Order builds on work that was already in place under the Attorney General’s MMIP Initiative and Operation Lady Justice (established in November 2019), and the tasks required by Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act. Published in November 2021, “When a Loved One Goes Missing: Resources for Families of Missing American Indian and Alaska Native Adults” is an Operation Lady Justice guide that provides critical information and resources to assist family members with the search for a missing adult loved one. 

When Native American and Alaska Native victims of intimate partner violence and sexual violence have access to culturally appropriate advocacy, they are less likely to end up in a situation where they murdered. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a safe, anonymous, and confidential helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives affected by domestic, dating, and sexual violence. StrongHearts advocates understand the unique barriers to safety and justice that Native peoples face.  

Advocates are available 24/7 by texting or calling 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) or via online chat at strongheartshelpline.org. Advocates can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP 

Individuals:

  • Read How to Support a Loved One in an Abusive Relationship. 
  • Read Colonization and Domestic Violence. 
  • View and share these three new short MMIR PSAs on StrongHearts’ YouTube channel. 
  • Like, follow and share organizations working on the MMIR crisis on social media. 
  • Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC):  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. 
  • Lakota People’s Law Project: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. 
  • MMIW USA: Facebook. 
  • National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC): Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. 
  • Not Our Native Daughters: Facebook. 
  • Sovereign Bodies Institute: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. 
  • Learn about the cross-jurisdictional issues facing missing and murdered Native peoples. Learn about your area’s MMIR, their names and
  • MMIR open and closed cases. 
  • Learn about your local law enforcement’s definition of a missing person (child or adult) and how to advocate for yourself and your missing loved one when talking to the police. 

Although it’s understandably a very stressful situation when you need to report a missing relative, it’s important to be calm, state the facts, and be prepared to offer any helpful information that will aid a search (list of friends and acquaintances who might have information, clothing description and recent photographs). 

  • Engage with your local news media about MMIR 

When a relative goes missing, contact your local news media (print, TV and radio) to encourage them to get the word out. News media can be reached by phone, email or on their social media pages. 

  • Volunteer to join searches for missing persons. Searching for a missing relative can be an emotional, overwhelming experience and especially traumatic if they are found murdered. Talking with friends, family members, tribal and spiritual leaders, or a professional therapist can be comforting and provide strategies for processing grief. 
  • Attend, support or organize a community event in your area to raise awareness of MMIR — a community walk or run, vigil or any type of fundraiser/awareness event.  
  • Donate to organizations working on the MMIR crisis. 

Organizations:

  • Center BIPOC voices on your platforms 
  • Donate to organizations doing the work 
  • Partner with organizations doing the work on events, calls to action and awareness campaigns 
  • Provide information and support via employment assistance programs 

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