Addressing missing and murdered indigenous women in Northern Nevada

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - It's a push for justice and equality.

The Women's March is this weekend with another important message of raising awareness to bring attention to missing and murdered indigenous women in our area and across the country.

Debra Harry is a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and a teaching associate professor at UNR.

She said there are many missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) in Northern Nevada still unaccounted for.

"It really speaks to the erasure and the invisibility of indigenous women," said Harry. "The fact that thousands of indigenous women are missing and are murdered with cases that continue to be unresolved."

Harry said there needs to be cooperation among police and the tribal communities to address these issues.

"There has been a failure by the justice system to set up safety nets, early alert systems and a common database for murdered and indigenous women," said Harry.

Urban Indian Health Institute reports there were more than 5,000 cases of MMIW across the country back in 2016.

The issue... even catching the attention of Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

"Because of sparse agencies, and limited jurisdiction to prosecute crimes, women in Indian country are dying and disappearing and far too many cases go unreported, unsolved, untouched by law enforcement," said Sen. Cortez Masto.

Lydia Huerta, an assistant professor at UNR focusing on race, gender and equality said the numbers speak for themselves.

"Because sometimes people move or whatever, some of the Department of Justice or FBI protocols may not categorize the women as missing even though they are missing because there is no known location for them," explained Huerta.

While the Women's March is just one way to bring this issue to light, Women's March Reno organizer Jackie Shelton said change needs to start in our own backyard.

"There's so much further that we need to go but when all women thrive our families are better, our communities are better, our country is better," said Shelton. "So this is all about looking at all types of women and issues they face and what we need to do to have a better life."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020