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Indian women are allegedly missing in record numbers

But statistics indicate no such thing



Yesterday on Facebook someone remarked about the record numbers of missing Indian women, and how nothing is being done about it. A comment went, “Stay away from the oil rigs!” This was a warning to young Native women based upon a movie, Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner, and a pretty good movie, because some really nasty bad guys pay for their evil deeds.

However, the director, Taylor Sheridan, admits it is not a true story, but based upon “thousands of actual stories just like that.” Problem is, really compelling crime fiction is always based on “thousands of actual stories just like that.”

Here’s the reality— Indian women are NOT disappearing in record numbers. In fact, overall missing persons nationwide is only two-thirds of what it was in 1995: 969,264 to 647,435. Of those 647,435 missing persons, 50.2% were women, 49.8% were men. Natives that went missing in 2016 were 11,574, of which, according to the Lakota Law Project, 6000 were women. That means 48.2%, or 5,579 Native men went missing in 2016, and 51.8%, or 5995, Native women went missing. That does not indicate at all that Native women are disappearing in record numbers. In fact, were this 1995, 7,973 Native women would have gone missing, given that 51.8%, and that’s 1,978 more missing Native women than in 2016.

There’s more. Indians comprise 2% of the USA population, and if you divide 11,574, the number of missing Natives in 2016, by 647,435, the number of missing Americans overall, you get 1.79%. So, you are slightly LESS LIKELY to go missing if you are a Native woman, than if you are Non-Native.

They call that reality.

Why do people, then, create these crisis situations where none exist? Certainly, it is terrible, those 6000 women went missing, but to misrepresent it as different than the reality all women face, or to misrepresent going missing as far worse for women than men when the difference is often less than one percent, begs the question— why?

It is perhaps human nature to exaggerate for a good cause, to internally manufacture a reality screaming for intervention and correction. No women missing would be a wonderful thing. Distorting reality to compel action to help solve a terrible problem is normal.

There is a final disturbing aspect to all of this statistical dishonesty— the oil rig remark, the implication that these missing Native women are the victims of White males. Some must surely be, but in every other statistical crime category, it is other Indians who mostly victimize Indians. No Hollywood movie can change that. Val Kilmer played a part Lakota FBI agent in one movie, where the FBI killed and buried a Native woman. This was based upon the disappearance of Anna Mae Aquash back in the 1970’s, and the narrative was, “The FBI did it!!”

Turns out, AIM did it. They murdered their own, not for political reasons, but because some other woman was jealous Dennis Banks was paying too much attention to Aquash and so AIM used the lie that she was an FBI informant to justify her murder.

Sometimes, the truth is too bitter a pill to swallow, the face in the mirror, too repulsive for us to admit it is no stranger. We have to take responsibility for who we are and what we have become. Only then can we fix what is broken, and heal the wounds inside our tribe.

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at

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