The number of Native American women and girls who go missing or are murdered was the focus of a recent study released by the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute. They identified 45 cases in Seattle, the most of any city in the study.

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Hundreds of marchers gathered in Occidental Park on Sunday, wearing red and fanning clouds of burning sage, to call for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women of Washington.

 “Today we want to recognize the people who have been lost to us, who we still search for,” said Connie McCloud, a Puyallup tribal elder, speaking to the group over a loudspeaker.  The number of Native American women and girls who go missing or are murdered was the focus of a recent study released by the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute. Researchers were able to count 506 cases in 71 U.S. cities since 1943, which they say is likely an undercount.

They identified 45 cases in Seattle, the most of any city in the study.

Melinda James, of the Quileute, Skokomish and Muckleshoot tribes, said that it’s only been a year since she started hearing about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, known as MMIW for short, but now she sees it everywhere. “It’s not just here in Washington. It’s across the country and across the world,” James said.

March organizer Earth-Feather Sovereign, of the Colville Confederated Tribes, said that her decision to hold a separate event the day after the larger Women’s March was driven by her feeling that MMIW were not given proper media attention the previous year, when they led the procession. “It’s our responsibility to uplift our own people,” Sovereign said during the rally at Occidental Park. “We should be able to take sovereignty over our own lives and not always depend on other people.”

The march stepped off from Occidental Park, and with a few hundred people in tow, walked to Seattle City Hall, where stories, poems and songs rang out into the afternoon. “We don’t just march because we are upset. Everything we do is a prayer,” said Sovereign.