Part Four (Women’s Rights) – Bringing Awareness to Violence Against Native American Women

The Vanished-

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

In our fourth installation of the celebration of women’s rights (In commemoration of the passages of the 19th amendment) we would like to bring more attention to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) in the United States and Canada. Over the past few weeks we have been speaking about intersectionality as it relates to gender. That is, we must think about how a woman’s race, ethnicity and even social class can affect her quality of life. In previous articles we have mentioned that the womanist tradition is a school of thought that causes one to pay attention to the needs of women of color. In contrast, the traditional feminist movement tends to cater to the needs of women of European decent. In this vein we want to bring attention to a social ill that has long plagued indigenous communities, namely that of missing and murdered indigenous women.  

Disturbing Statistics
Although the phenomenon has been going on for much longer, researchers have been able to somewhat accurately track the numbers since 1980. Between 1980 and 2012, indigenous women and girls represented 16% of all female homicides in Canada. What makes this static so troubling is that Native women only make up 4% of the female population in Canada. Other statistics are equally disturbing. A Canadian report from 2001 estimated that between 1997 and 2000 the homicide rate for Native females was almost seven times higher than other females. Furthermore, they are far more likely to be affected by violence, over-represented among female homicide victims and are far more likely to go missing than other women. In the United States, 84 percent of Native American women experience violence in their lifetimes. Below we have provided some articles and resources to bring more awareness and education to the public on this topic. We will also provide lessons and resources for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Teaching Ideas
Teachers can have students do research on Native American culture from a historical standpoint in order for them to explore and understand Indigenous people’s rights and culture in modern times. From there, students can research the differing customs and culture of women from various Native tribes. This can allow students to understand the reasons why these women are targeted. The next step would be helping students find solutions to combat this social ill. Activities might include analyzing primary sources, studying Native constitutions and laws and researching media news articles on the topic. It would also be powerful if students had an opportunity to speak with Native women about their lives and culture.

Formative assessments and culminating projects might consist of students making their own documentary about the topic, students creating a diary from the perspective of Native women to create empathy and having students do an essay that explores the news articles and media stories on the topic.

Lesson Plans/Resources
Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women: Teacher in Training- Less Plan
Missing, murdered Indigenous women inquiry to ask for more time- Lesson Plan
The Issues of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada- Unit Plan
Honoring Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women in the Classroom
Finding Dawn- Documentary
Highway of Tears: Preventing Violence Against Women

Article and References
A New Study on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Highlights Challenges
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Why Do So Many Native American Women Go Missing? Congress Aiming to Find Out
Inadequate Data on Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
National Day of Awareness for MIssing and Murdered Indigineous Women is May 5th
Congress Tackles Crisis of Missing and Murdered Native American Women
Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: An epidemic on both sides of the Medicine Line
Thousands of killed or missing Indigenous women and girls are victims of a ‘Canadian genocide,’ report says
Why thousands of indigenous women have gone missing in Canada “My sister’s murder will probably never be solved.”


  1. Part of the issue with this epidemic of violence is that for so long it was underreported. Native American women are almost nameless victims, so it is easy to not be aware. Reservation life is most often deeply economically challenged, with many of the attendant social ills associated with high poverty rates. Violence against women is not uncommon, and homicide is the ultimate end of that spectrum. I’m glad that attention is finally being paid to these victims, and that there is more focus on protecting these women. Unfortunately, Native American women are disproportionately targeted, and until there is an effort to address the causes that make them more likely to be a victim, I think they will still have higher numbers of incidence. Spotlighting the issue is the first step, but a more concerted effort is needed.

  2. I already had an idea of how women of various ethnicities are treated differently, but reading and learning about these statistics saddened me. It saddens to me to constantly hear new stories of someone being mistreated because of their ethnicity and gender. I will never understand why someone would treat someone so badly with nothing but disrespect just because the victim is different. No one should be treated that way no matter what the reason, especially if it is because of their gender and ethnicity.

  3. The statistics in this article completely shocked me. I honestly had no idea that this was happening to Native American Women. The statistic that stood out the most to me was the one that said, “Between 1980 and 2012, indigenous women and girls represented 16% of all female homicides in Canada. What makes this statistic so troubling is that Native women only make up 4% of the female population in Canada”. As a woman myself it makes me sick to my stomach thinking about this. What makes me any different from them? What did they do to deserve this? I believe that this topic needs to be made more aware. It’s constantly happening around us and it’s not going to stop unless more people are made aware.

  4. Well I have been reading these series of articles and have found them educational. This one has brought to my attention some statistics I was not aware of. It is crazy to think that just because they are Native American, there is a much hire chance of being killed. This is yet again something I do not necessarily have to worry about, but it is out there and people must be made aware. I do agree with the end of the article, education is key when it comes to changing this so we can make a stop.

  5. This blog first caught my eye because my mother’s side of the family is Native American, therefore having Native American in me i thought I would enjoy to read about my history but the statistics and facts were very troubling to wrap my head around. The one statistic that is troubling is, “Canadian report from 2001 estimated that between 1997 and 2000 the homicide rate for Native females was almost seven times higher than other females. “ Considering that Native Americans were not a majority of the population in Canada being seven times higher is an outrageous number. I think teaching about this in history class would be great because I have never heard of this history before, it is important to teach So we are aware of this atrocity.

  6. The statistics are very shocking to me about Native American women. One that really stood out me was that 84% of Native American women experience violence in their lifetime which is so insane to me because that is such a high number. Someones ethnicity, race and background should not define how they get treated throughout their life, this is something that needs to be changed. It is important for the students to be aware of the issues that these women are facing due to their background. It is important that the students do their research and try and figure out why they are being treated this way. We want the students to be aware of the news in other cultures and backgrounds.

  7. All the statistics about Native American women, truly were disturbing. Although I do not keep up with the news as much as I should, I know that I have seen little to articles about these statistics, which is troubling. These facts should be known to everyone, because when people are aware, that is when change is possible. As teachers, we can play a big role in bringing awareness to these statistics towards Native American women, by incorporating these statistics into our teaching. I like the idea of having students make their own documentary about this topic, to see their understanding of how upsetting these statistics are.

  8. I found this article really poignant and relevant to the times because as stated, feminism has had a tendency to cater more toward white women, while the women who have the most odds stacked against them (black women, Native American women, Asian women, Latina women, etc.) have somewhat been shunted to the background. Because of this, it is vitally important that we push to have these conversations about the horrors that these women face, the horrors that most white women cannot understand. The only way this horrible problem can be remedied is if we bring awareness to it so that we can find solutions that actually work. I also really liked the ideas teachers can use to highlight this issue within classrooms. The lesson ideas could absolutely be used with younger kids, so as to shed light on this topic at a young age. This way, kids might not grow up ignorant to these issues.

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