California and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person Crisis
In 2018, the Associated Press conducted an investigation which found that Indigenous Women make up .7% of all open missing person cases in the United States while only making up .4% of the total population. Though, most researchers suggest that the number of missing Native American women is significantly higher due misreporting and misclassification of Native Americans in official reports. In addition, numerous reports surrounding the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person (MMIP) crisis place California as one of the leading hotspots for MMIP in our Country. Currently, California is home to 109 of the 574 federally recognized Native American tribes. Moreover, there are currently 81 Native American populations in the state who are seeking federal recognition. These numbers, coupled with the huge urban Native American population, the state of California is home to over 700,000 American Indian and Alaska Native people living both on and off reservations.
Though California is home to the biggest Native American/Alaska Native population in the United States, there is currently no reliable data on missing persons throughout the whole state. Through many different state-wide initiatives and pending legislation, law makers and key stakeholders are seeking to change the lack of data for California Natives. Key legislation that has been passed previously includes CA Assembly Bill 3099 which seeks to rectify issues and lapses in policy/training that concern the implementation of Public Law 280. For those unfamiliar, PL280 as it is commonly known, is a federal law which shifts criminal jurisdiction on Tribal lands from the federal government to the state. Another Assembly Bill that was recently enacted is AB 1314 also known as the Feather Alert. This alert system has been designed in the State to notify the public in a timely manner when an Indigenous person goes missing. Additionally, pending legislations AB 44 and 273, seek to streamline the notification of missing tribal citizens and expand access to state-wide databases to tribal nations.
Through the enacted and proposed legislation, many changes to how the Californian Government approaches the topic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Additionally, the Office of Native American Affairs through the California Department of Justice is hosting regional events for families affected by the crisis entitled Missing in California Indian Country. The Southern California event will be held at the Soboba Casino Event Center at 22777 Soboba Rd, San Jacinto, CA 92583 on September 30th, 2023, at 9am. Through this event, families are able to gain updates on cases of family members who have went missing or have been murdered, report a loved one missing, learn additional resources to help families who have been affected by the crisis, and participate in culturally sensitive healing practices with the community. A flyer for the event can be found on our website at CahuillaConsortium.org under the resources tab.
Although the changes being made on a state-wide level will not bring back all of those gone due to the MMIP crisis, the hopes of the changes being made will keep future generations of Indigenous people safe.