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Idaho MMIWP advocates call on Governor's office to back their efforts

A woman holds her hand out with the palm facing us, painted red. Her wrist is adorned with beaded bracelets and partially covered by the sleeve of her red top, which has studs at the collar. She's also wearing a turquoise necklace, a mask, and earrings. Her face is out of focus as her painted hand takes up a large portion of the image.
U.S. Department of Interior

In the Mountain West, no one knows exactly how many Indigenous women and people are missing or murdered, and that’s part of the problem. Now, advocates in Idaho are calling on the Governor's Office to support them in finding their loved ones.

In Idaho, law enforcement agencies report for every 100,000 people, there are about 10 people missing. When it comes to people who are identified as indigenous, that rate is almost doubled.

The lack of concrete data is a major problem in understanding how big of an issue this is. The exact number of people missing is not clear, sometimes missing people aren’t even reported to police for a variety of reasons-and even defining who is Indigenous, and by who’s standard, is complicated.

Now organizers in Idaho are asking for support. They want a better definition of who is a missing or murdered Indigenous person, better access to data and more resources for people to find their loved ones.

“These are all of the immediate needs and gaps in resources and services that we are aware of. The more we have the discussion, the more problems and hiccups we're starting to uncover.”

That’s Tai Simpson, a representative for Idaho on the Presidential task-force for this issue. She works with advocacy groups, tribal governments, and people who are looking for their loved ones.

Simpson is working with the Coeur d’Alene STOP Violence program to bring together law enforcement, criminal justice advocates, legislators and tribal leaders for a one-day virtual conference on Thursday. Simpson says she and organizers are asking the governor’s office to back a statewide task force.

A representative for the Governor's office says the meeting is on their radar.

The Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victims Assistance has released a report conducted by researchers at BSU analyzing the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

The report does not isolate any contributing factors to why this issue happens, but looks to understand how to better address it.

For Simpson, all of this is the first step to address an issue that she says finds its roots in affordable housing, consent, education, internet access, and serious negative stereotypes and misconceptions between law enforcement agencies that are predominately white, and tribal law enforcement.

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