(photo courtesy of the family of Randy Capoeman)

Tuesday, May 5th is Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Awareness Day.

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is building partnerships with tribal communities to help find our missing Native community members. In fact, just in the past week, those partnerships along with WSP’s networking with other law enforcement agencies across the nation led to a success.  A missing Native woman, feared dead since 2006, was found alive in another part of the country and is being reunited with her loving family.  As this is very recent, we are respecting the family’s privacy and not providing further detail but WSP wishes to thank the many dedicated partners who contributed to this successful effort.

Nationally, Native Americans experience violence by non-native persons at a high incident rate[i].  Our Native neighbors also are reported as missing at a rate higher than their demographic representation. Native Americans represent 1.9 percent of Washington State’s population according to the 2019 population estimates by the U.S. Census, and account for 6 percent of Washington’s active missing persons reports.

On average, 102 Native women, girls, men and boys are listed as missing in Washington State each week[ii] in the State’s WACIC database.  The majority of missing Native people are reported in cities and counties, not tribal jurisdictions.  The actual number of missing Native Americans is likely much higher, as Native persons are often inaccurately reported or listed as white in law enforcement data bases.

A number of government agencies, public entities, and private grassroots communities are working to correct reporting errors, identify missing and murdered Native people, and support families as they navigate unfamiliar judicial systems. Through MMIW Awareness, loopholes and problems are being identified and corrected which contributes to the welfare of all Washington State citizens. The WSP is proud to be a partner in the continued improvement of systems that help find the missing as well as serve the needs of communities historically underrepresented and overlooked.  Together, we seek truth, we seek justice, and we seek a safer future for all people.

[i] US Department of Justice: National Institute of Justice. (2016) Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men. NCJ Number 249822. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/violence-against-american-indian-and-alaska-native-women-and-men

[ii] Washington Crime Information Center (WACIC) data