Speaking in personal terms, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said extensive news media coverage of the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito while on a cross-country trip should be a reminder of hundreds of Native American girls and women who are missing or murdered in the United States.
Ms. Haaland was the first Native American Cabinet Secretary. She said her heart went out to Ms. Petito and that she grieved for the “so many Indigenous families” who have suffered similar pain over the past years. There has been a lot of media coverage about Ms. Petito, including on television and online. Ms. Petito, a Florida woman who was on cross-country travel with her boyfriend in the United States, vanished and was later found dead near Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. She was identified as a victim of homicide by authorities.
A Wyoming report found at least 710 Native Americans had been reported missing in the period 2011 to late 2020.. Between 2010 and 2019, the homicide rate per 100,000 for Indigenous people was 26.8, eight times higher than the homicide rate for white people, the report said.
Ms. Haaland is a Pueblo Laguna tribal member. She said that she’s seen Native American relatives posting photos on fences or the side of buildings in order to find missing women and girls. She said that she sees her sisters when this happens at Thursday’s news conference. I see my mom. “I see my mother, my aunties and my nieces. Because of this, I believe that each victim and every woman deserves my attention .”
An ex-congressionwoman from New Mexico, Haaland worked to pass a law last year to deal with the issue of trafficked, missing and murdered Indigenous women. Savanna’s Act is a law that aims to assist law enforcement in tracking, solving, and preventing crimes against Native Americans. It includes women and girls.
The law was named after Savanna LaFontaine–Greywind of Spirit Lake, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2017, North Dakota. 22,, Ms. LaFontaine, was pregnant and the unborn child was taken from her. Red River .
Ms. contained her remains. Haaland stated that she views her role as interior secretary partly as an opportunity to raise awareness on Native American concerns.
” I feel it is my duty to raise this issue the best that I can. That is if the people who write and broadcast the news understand that the women involved in this story are friends, neighbours, colleagues and coworkers, she stated .
Ms. Haaland clarified that she was not trying to minimize the suffering of Ms. Petito and her family.
“Anytime that a woman is subject to assault, rape or murder, it can be very distressing and I am sorry for the families who have to go through this. “And so, of course, my heart goes out to the young woman who was found in Wyoming.”
Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, Ms. Haaland said, but “where I can make a difference in particular is in addressing the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples crisis, which has occurred since the beginning of colonization of Indigenous people on this continent for about the last 500 years and it continues.”
Ms. Haaland created a Missing & Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services earlier this year and has established a joint commission of national tribal leaders and experts, led by the Interior and Justice departments, to reduce violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Ms. Haaland ordered Interior to examine its oversight of Native American Boarding Schools that displaced hundreds of thousands of kids from their homes and families.
” “The principal goal of this investigation is to tell the truth about this dark chapter of our nation’s past, so we can heal,” Ms. Haaland stated.
Next year, a written report will be available.
This story was published by The Associated Press.