The Indian Wars never ended, they just changed tactics

It’s all about raising awareness of the wave of crime against Indian women.

For last weekend’s Washington State 1B track and field championships, Rosalie Fish painted a red handprint over her mouth, the fingers extending across her cheekbones. On her right leg, she painted the letters “MMIW,” standing for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

It’s an epidemic right now. Imagine if a town the size of Morris, Minnesota were wiped out every year…but these deaths are scattered and spread out among a neglected population.

MMIW seeks to address the issue of the thousands of indigenous women who are missing or were murdered. According to a report by the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 of these cases were reported in 2016, but only 116 were put into the U.S. Department of Justice database. With 71 cases, Washington was second only to New Mexico, which had 78 cases of murdered or missing indigenous women.

I can imagine it: the reservations in Washington state are in many ways isolated, populated with poor people, but at the same time penetrated with highways and outsiders are encouraged to visit to buy cheap cigarettes or gamble, so some of the worst people from the outside are cruising through the place. Then there’s the problem of jurisdiction…if some predator is looking for prey no one with power will care about, reservations are targets of opportunity.

Hey, Canada! You too!

The thousands of Indigenous women and girls who were murdered or disappeared across the country in recent decades are victims of a “Canadian genocide,” says the final report of the national inquiry created to probe the ongoing tragedy.

The report, obtained by CBC News and verified by sources, concludes that a genocide driven by the disproportionate level of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls occurred in Canada through “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies.”

Colonialism isn’t over yet, it seems — it’s still exacting a toll.


  1. Sean Boyd says

    I got into a barely civil argument at a bus stop with an older white lady a few years ago over this topic. Hanging out at a bus stop in downtown Tacoma on a day when the Puyallup Tribe were holding a march from their HQ (which is coincidentally directly across the street from my apartment) to the federal courthouse downtown. The march was to foster awareness of a young woman, Jackie Salyers, who was shot and killed by Tacoma PD under, shall we say, questionable circumstances. There were probably a hundred or more marchers, and they had the street effectively blocked up. A lady at the bus stop began complaining about the traffic being blocked up. So I commented that, first, it wouldn’t impact us (divided road, so it was only traffic on other side that was stopped) and second, how else were they supposed to get our attention? I was kind of hoping the first (completely immaterial) point would quell the conversation.
    No such luck. Her constant refrain was “well, they’ve already made their point.” My reply each time was a barely polite “obviously they haven’t, otherwise they wouldn’t be marching.” And “they’ve got a right to be upset about police brutality.” And a host of other responses. But I finally got fed up with the pointless back and forth (I’m really not good at that sort of thing) and said something about oblivious white people (I’m white, but hopefully not as oblivious as she) being blind to what’s going on in their neighborhoods. Her reply? “Oh, I understand this sort of thing. I volunteer at the library and museum.”
    So, who knew the “solution” to racism, inequality, and police misconduct was helping to reshelf books or directing people to the gift shop?
    On PZ’s observation on the isolation of reservations, it’s not just the super-rural ones that have this problem. Large parts of the Puyallup reservation are in Tacoma, a mid-sized city bordered by smaller cities without a lot of rural in between. I-5 looms in plain sight of their HQ, and runs right next to where the tribe is building its new $350 million casino, across the street from its new pot shot, near two of its smoke shops and one of its gas stations. They are a large economic player in this region.
    And yet this corner of Tacoma is, in many ways, isolated. Mass transit in this area is a joke, although better that it once was (unless it’s a weekend.) The streets are in miserable repair (and it’s the city’s job to keep up with that, not the tribe’s); not uncommon in Tacoma, but for some reason the repaving crews seem busy elsewhere. Tacoma’s lone light rail line is expanding: when the expansion was in its initial planning phase, the tribe offered, at no cost to the Powers That Be, the use of one of their new parking garages as a park and ride for any light rail expansion that came in our direction, and IIRC, a station abutting that garage for the light rail’s use. That kind of reliable, regular transit could help this neighborhood immensely. Instead, the decision was made to run the light rail in the opposite direction, through a neighborhood already served by multiple bus lines and within walking distance of downtown, to Tacoma General, itself served by multiple bus lines. These anecdotes reinforce that isolation PZ wrote about in the OP. Even in a major metropolitan area, native tribes are isolated.

  2. Ed Seedhouse says

    Yes, we up in Canada have been killing first nations people for centuries. But it’s all good because, you know, we were actually teaching them to accept our ways and forget their ways for “their own good”. Also, being Canadians, we said we’re sorry. That fixes everything, right?

  3. Gregory Greenwood says

    Utterly beyond horrifying, and as PZ observes the power brokers of society don’t care, and so this creeping genocide-through-neglect continues unabated. At least relatively visible people like Rosalie Fish are using their public profile to raise awareness, which will hopefully begin to nudge the needle in the direction of meaningful change, but that will take time, and time is something we can’t afford to waste when so many are dying every day.

  4. loreo says

    Jackie Salyers… Renee Davis who was shot by the Muckleshoot cops during a wellness check… Jimmy Smith-Kramer who was run down by some fucking cowboy in a fucking lifted pickup truck… anybody tells you Washington state is “progressive” you tell them we’re not fucking close to progressive.

  5. christoph says

    You might find the movie “Wind River” worth watching. I think it’s the first mainstream movie to deal with this subject.

  6. says

    I saw a post about this on tumblr and some crypto-terf had added useful information which had reasonable people reblogging the tainted version. I hate terfs so much. They – reasonably – promote articles about violence against women, but always with the unreasonable aim of demonizing anyone labeled male at birth. Of course the missing and murdered indigenous women include transwomen. I don’t even have to look that up to know it’s true with absolute certainty.

  7. jrkrideau says

    I see this as as total o of the RCMP. We have what appears to be serial killers and no response.

    Well actually, it is a total condemnation of the Canadian Government.

  8. marinerachel says

    In Canada, deterring people from committing violence against Indigenous women and girls and making the government invest the same in the well-being of Indigenous women and girls that it does in the well-being of white women and girls will be the easy part. And it won’t be easy. We have Robert Pickton. A greater degree of interest in the whereabouts of street prostitutes, most of whom are Indigenous women in and around Vancouver, likely would have saved some of his victims. Tina Fontaine would likely still be alive if the provincial services she and her family reached out for in the wake of her father’s death and leading up to her own had provided adequate care. Instead, she ended up another First Nations kid, first taken into Child and Family Services and later murdered. At the federal and provincial level, up to this day, there have been major failures to protect Indigenous women and girls.

    The majority of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, like pretty much everywhere else, is committed by men within their communities though. A lot of these men are victims of the Sixties Scoop or are residential school survivors. They have lived with poverty and alcoholism and childhood abuse by guardians who, themselves, were victims of various colonial constructs that inhibited them from providing ideal care to their kids. Lateral violence accounts to a large extent for both the rate at which Indigenous women and girls experience violence in this country and for the severity of this violence.

    The issue can’t be dealt with without taking into account the circumstances that created it and continue to perpetuate it. Addressing the many little contributing problems will be the most difficult part of resolving violence against Indigenous women and girls. There is so much, socially, that needs dismantling in order to protect them and, ultimately, heal all Indigenous people here.

    The federal and provincial governments in Canada need to be accountable for the wellbeing of Indigenous women and girls to the same extent they are to everyone else. They have LOTS of work to do in that respect. How to address a lot of the local factors that contribute to violence against Indigenous women and girls is up to the First Nations themselves though, not the fed. I’m a Métis woman in Canada. I’m not on a reserve. I don’t get to decide how these issues are addressed by the communities affected by them nor does anyone else. The communities need to be listened to and the federal and provincial governments need to be prepared to support their efforts.