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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

The Epidemic of Missing & Murdered Native American Women

Updated: May 5, 2021

Today, May 5th, is the National Day of Awareness for Missing & Murdered Native Women & Girls

SPECIAL NOTE: This post may be an upsetting for some to read. It is a departure from our regular Notes from the Frontier 1800s-era history posts. It is modern-day history but, sadly, a continuum of the historical precedents set in motion centuries ago that continue to haunt indigenous populations today. I debated whether I should do a post on this topic. But, in the end, I decided that frontier history lovers care about Native American heritage, past and present. And Notes from the Frontier has many Native readers who are impacted.

Not long ago, two native girls, a 7-year-old Blackfoot child and a 16-year-old Crow teen, were abducted, attacked, then abandoned to freeze to death in the mountains. These abductions are part of a horrific trend of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The rate of murdered and missing Native American women is ten times the national average and the highest of any demographic in North America. This trend is equally devastating in both the United States and Canada. What is also tragic is that there has not been an organized database or coordinated effort to track murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. Investigations of the crimes are also complicated by the fact that many crimes take place on reservations and jurisdictional problems between Native, area and state police and the FBI complicates investigations.

In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported 5,712 missing Native American women and girls in their database. However, only 116 of those cases had been recorded in the United States Department of Justice’s missing persons database.

Who exactly are the perpetrators of these horrible crimes remains a mystery. The causes of such a broad continental trend are most probably multitudinous. But developing forensic investigations are focusing especially on the phenomenon of “man camps,” that are often located in isolated Western regions near reservations. These camps are huge work camps of modular housing for predominantly male workers for large mines, fracking and pipeline operations. Some camps house up to a thousand men. Although the research is ongoing, some specific areas, like the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, and eastern Montana and western North Dakota, known as the Bakken oil fields, as well as areas along the Keystone Pipeline, have seen especially high rates of missing and murdered Native women and girls. Also coinciding with these camps are high rates of sexual violence and human trafficking.

Both Canadian and American law enforcement has recognized that these man-camps are hotbeds of violence. But policing them is again, a jurisdictional problem. A 1978 Supreme Court decision prevents tribal police from charging non-tribal citizens of crimes. So responsibility for policing has shifted wholly to county sheriffs and the FBI.

What is clear is that the perpetrators are targeting Native women and girls who are often isolated in rural areas, many of them poor, with few resources. They are viewed as expendable. Most cases go unsolved and there is little justice. For more information on MMIW in your state, go to:

You may find this related post interesting:

-Native Americans: Back from the Brink

"The Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Native Women" was first posted on Facebook and on March 11, 2020.

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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook


Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  


Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on, Facebook, and Instagram.

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