Petito Case renews its appeal for help in MMIW cases


Nangohns Massey, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Odawa Indian Band, was killed in her home in November 2020. She was 21 years old and has a son, who is now three years old. Her family has been waiting for justice for almost a year.

“She was such an amazing person, honestly,” says her cousin, Mia Pamp, a member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. “She had an incredible outlook on life. She has always looked for the best in people. He was such a nice person, like a friendly spirit.

Its history is all too familiar to Native American communities across the country.

“So many people can relate to this in the indigenous community because so many people have had family members, sisters, friends and cousins, aunts, grandmothers, mothers – everyone. has someone, ”Pamp said.

In some counties, Native American women are murdered at rates ten times the national average, according to a 2018 study. The murder rate of Native and Alaskan / Pacific Island women is three times higher than that of non-Hispanic white women. This is called an epidemic.

In the midst of the Gabby Petito saga, people have been clamoring for the same attention and resources to be used to resolve the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and Two-Spirit women.

The hashtag “#findgabbypetito” was used to raise awareness of the many people of color missing in the United States

“I am very attached to Gabby Petito’s family and I hope they are doing well, and my condolences will always be with them,” Pamp says. “But it’s such a shame that there isn’t the same energy for the missing 710s [indigenous] in Wyoming, the same state where Gabby Petito disappeared.

The Wyoming Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Task Force says 710 Indigenous people have been reported missing in the state over the past decade. More than half of them were women. They make up three percent of the state’s total population. Native American women are murdered at a rate 6.4 percent higher than white women.

The problem is not confined to the West. It’s happening in Michigan. But everywhere, statistics and cases are grossly underreported.

Holly T. Bird is a lawyer. She is also an associate judge for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians. She has also served as Chief Justice for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and the Chippewa Indians. She says there is a disparity in the investigation, enforcement and prosecution of cases related to indigenous peoples.

The National Crime Information Center reports, in 2016, 5,712 Native American and Native Alaskan women and girls missing. However, the United States Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, recorded only 116 cases.

“They stopped counting,” Bird says. “There is currently no accurate law enforcement database to account for all of the missing loved ones we have.”

Bird herself knows 20 people missing or murdered. And as a judge, it has already taken three days to sit on a jury in a domestic violence case because everyone had experience of domestic violence and couldn’t be neutral. Four in five Native American women will experience violence in their lifetime.

“This is what happens when you have a family dysfunction that causes my oppression,” Bird says. “When you have people who have been in boarding schools, beaten and sexually abused. I know a lot of these problems people don’t understand. People do not realize that we are just looking at resources. You cannot get rid of 500 years of oppression and dysfunction in 20. ”

She says racial prejudice and a lack of resources are to blame for this epidemic.

“When we see something like the situation with Gabby Petito blowing up in the media and being broadcast and a rush of law enforcement agencies from several states to try and find it, we go there, why is it not? ‘Hasn’t it happened for my sister, my aunt or my niece, “says Bird.

She says we need resources to help and support tribal law enforcement and prosecution agencies, but also outlying communities. Education on racial prejudice and accountability is also part of solving the epidemic.

“Nangohns Massey, who was related to people here in our area, was murdered,” she said. “We only recently received a murder charge that fitted this pattern of events.”

Several rallies in Detroit and Grand Rapids were held for Massey and to raise awareness of MMIW cases.

“We organized gatherings and it was mainly his community of people that showed up,” says Pamp. “We were able to gain some presence, but unfortunately she never really did anything like Gabby Petito… she didn’t really gain a presence on social media.”

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