Riders participate in 200-mile horseback ride to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
PIERRE, S.D. — Riders participated in an annual 200-mile horseback ride raising awareness for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement. The ride finished at the state Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday and was joined by Gov. Noem for its last segment.
“I think this is one of the most meaningful moments that I’ve ever had,” said Noem. “And the more that you do rides like this, you talk about it, it raises awareness and people take care of their friends and community members who are vulnerable.”
The annual ride began five years ago, the Daily Republic reports, and seeks to highlight the high number of Native American women and children whose murders and disappearances have never been solved. It also draws attention to the higher rates of violence experienced by Native American women and children.
A 2008 study funded by the Department of Justice reports that Native American women are murdered at ten times the national rate, and despite making up less than one percent of the population, they represent a disproportionately high number of ongoing missing person cases in the U.S.
A more local study conducted in 2014 in Rapid City indicates that Native American women in the area are almost twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime than white females.
Advocates say a large part of the problem has been poor coordination and data collection across tribal governments, the FBI and local agencies. According to the National Crime Information Center, 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing in 2016, but only 116 of those cases were logged in the DOJ’s federal missing persons database.
Federal and local laws have begun to address the issue as the MMIW movement continues to gain momentum across the U.S. and Canada.
In South Dakota, a bill signed into law in March establishes standardized guidelines for how authorities handle and report cases of missing and murdered indigenous people. It also implements additional training programs for law enforcement on how to conduct investigations into such cases.
Similar bills were also signed into law in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Washington state and New Mexico this spring. On the federal level several bills have been introduced in Congress, including the Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act.
Savanna’s Act, named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a pregnant woman who was murdered in Fargo in 2017, is aimed at improving how law enforcement agencies handle MMIW cases.
The Act, which was reintroduced in 2019 after failing in 2018, would expand access to federal crime data bases for tribal agencies, establish uniform protocols for dealing with MMIW cases and require statistical reports on the issue be sent to Congress each year.
The Not Invisible Act, introduced for the first time this year, would develop an advisory committee made up of tribal leaders, survivors and law enforcement that would make recommendations to the DOJ and Department of Interior on how to combat the crisis.