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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Image Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle

The House of Representatives finally passed a bill called “Savanna’s Act”, a measure that will require the Justice Department to develop a protocol in response to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women that is crippling native communities across the country. It is now headed to the president’s desk, waiting to be signed.

The bill was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman of Indigenous descent who was murdered in 2017 when she was eight months pregnant. 

According to CNN, the bi-partisan bill is designed not only to create better guidelines for authorities to respond to this pervasive problem, but also instructs the Justice Department to “provide training for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.” 

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “[It] helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans.”

From now on, the Justice Department will also be forced to provide an annual report on the numbers of missing Indigenous women–numbers that are, right now, unclear.

According to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member Tillie Aldrich (whose daughter was found dead in January), the historical lack of government response to the issue of violence against Native women boils down to structural racism. 

“If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it’s all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up,” Aldrich told Teen Vogue. “If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

via @R_OWL_MIRROR/TWITTER

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a pervasive but underreported problem.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 missing Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls were reported missing in 2016. Only 116 of them were registered in the Department of Justice database

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center database reports that Native American and Alaska Native women made up 0.8% of the U.S. population, but made up 1.8% of 2017 missing persons cases.

And these statistics only reflect the reported number of cases. Many native people have feelings of hopelessness when it comes to reporting their missing loved ones. They know that authorities won’t even try to find their missing family members.

Both family members of Indigenous people as well as Indigenous activists explain that there is a general attitude of apathy, victim-blaming, and lack of urgency when it comes to the local government’s response to these missing women. 

“When no one in authority looks for a missing woman, it sends a strong statement to the families and to communities that this life doesn’t matter–it is an expendable life,” said University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer to Teen Vogue.

“Victim-blaming is often a part of this dynamic,” Deer continued. “If she’s done X, Y, or Z–no wonder she got caught up in trouble. Unlike an innocent white college girl, this Native woman doesn’t deserve prioritization.”

But as of now, activists and organizers are hopeful that Savanna’s Act will change the way government institutions respond to this all-too-common problem. 

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women are no longer invisible. They are no longer hidden in the shadows,” said former North Dakota Senator and bill co-sponsor Heidi Heitkamp. “By raising awareness about this crisis and taking concrete action to help address it, we can help make sure Indigenous women are better protected.”

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

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An Indigenous woman from Utqiagvik, Alaska who is part of the Iñupiaq tribe is TikTok’s latest culture sensation.

While the rest of us are stuck indoors and quarantining, Patuk Glenn has been amassing a following on Instagram and teaching her 81,000 followers about the Iñupiaq culture, traditions, and daily routines. From sharing videos about hunting to showing off her culture’s traditional clothing, Glenn’s videos are a reminder that beyond being alive, indigenous cultures around the globe are resilient– even in the face of our world’s constant attempts to change and eliminate them.

Glenn’s trending TikTok videos run the gamut from cooking to wearing her traditional clothing.

In some videos, Glenn shares the recipe for Inuit ice cream (caribou fat, ground caribou meat, and seal meat) or shares what her traditional clothing looks like. In one truly insightful clip, she takes her followers through a traditional ice cellar in her mother’s house. There, Glenn shared with her viewers that she and her family use the permafrost surround the cellar to preserve whale, seal, and caribou.

Given some of the food content, some of Glenn’s videos have received some backlash to which she isn’t batting much of an eye.

In videos where Glenn features food from whales (muktuk, or whale skin) she says that she has become used to receiving not so positive comments on occasion. Speaking to CBC News, Glenn explained that such comments are hurtful at times but mostly only inspire to continue to educate her followers more. “At first I was really upset,” she explained. “From there, with all of the negative backlash, I felt like it was my responsibility to help educate on why our Inuit people in the Arctic are hunters and gatherers.”

Glenn says that negative comments only push her to share more and educate her followers, particularly because she would like her daughter to be able to share her love for her culture one day as well. “We don’t want our kids to feel ashamed of who they are and where they came from. That’s what really hurt me the most.”

Impressively, Glenn says that learning on TikTok has become a two-way street too.

From TikTok, Glenn says that she has been able to learn and educate herself more about other Indigenous cultures as well. Glenn’s growing understanding of these groups and tribes (like Navajo and Cree) are a welcome surprise. Particularly for someone who, like the rest of us, is taught very little about the world’s Indigenous populations. “In the United States, we’re largely left out of the media. There’s no representation of us,” Glenn shared. “It’s 2020, we have a real opportunity in this day and age to be able to educate the world where institutional education has failed, or where mainstream media has failed.”

For Glenn, her fight to teach others more about her culture is vital. “This platform is helping give the power back into Indigenous people’s hands, to speak on behalf of themselves. I think that’s the really cool piece of it.”

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Mexico’s Progressive Bill Legalizing Cannabis Stalled Again Because Of Pandemic

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Mexico’s Progressive Bill Legalizing Cannabis Stalled Again Because Of Pandemic

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There has been a global movement to legalize cannabis beyond medicinal usage. Advocates are pushing to recreational use as well as opening up government money to allow for research into marijuana and hemp. Some states in the U.S. have legalized recreational marijuana including California and Illinois. Mexico keeps getting closer and closer to eventually passing a bill to legalize marijuana.

Mexico missed another deadline to pass a bill legalizing marijuana.

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Mexican officials were making progress on a new bill that would legalize cannabis across the country regardless of THC levels. This means both marijuana and hemp would be legal in the Latin American country bordering the U.S. The move would mean that the U.S. would be the lone country in the North American bloc without federal legalization of marijuana.

Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.

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Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2017 becoming pioneers in the legal and social experiments surrounding cannabis legalization. Most notably, businesses had to figure out how to make money from the sale of cannabis while adhering to international banking regulations that make it illegal to handle money made from selling drugs. Several pharmacies in the country that were selling marijuana were told to stop selling the product or close their accounts.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s political party is behind the bill fighting for legalization.

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In 2018, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) wrote legislation to legalize marijuana. The motion, submitted by Senator Olga Sánchez Cordero, calls out the prohibition of marijuana and how it leads to the violence Mexico has experienced.

“Today, the nation has taken the decision to change,” Sen. Sánchez Cordero told her colleagues the day the motion was filed. “We don’t want more deaths. It will be a major contribution to bringing peace to our beloved country.”

AMLO has since come out against the legalization of marijuana.

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“We are analyzing everything that will help ensure that there is no violence, that consumption does not increase, and that at the same time medical attention is guaranteed to those who require it,” AMLO said during a presidential conference.

COVID-19 has put a stop to the bill for now but it isn’t done yet.

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The March legislation session was canceled because of the pandemic meaning that they will miss the April 30 deadline to pass the bill. The next legislative session is from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15. Even if the bill is passed then, it could take years for Mexico to set up the appropriate systems to regulate and sell marijuana.

READ: A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

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