“It’s a crisis here in our state and they don’t take it seriously, so that’s an issue, that’s a huge issue.”
Funding for a position focused on investigating missing and murdered Indigenous people “cannot be found”.
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Indigenous women continue to vanish, found murdered or not at all.
As of September 2021, 34 Native Americans out of 50 people were listed as missing in South Dakota. Rapid City law enforcement works with the Red Ribbon Skirt Society to find them.
But, that’s not enough.
“So if they were to create liaisons with law enforcement, that would help them do their job to help in our missing and murdered Indigenous women which helps us,” said Lily Mendoza, founder of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society.
This liaison would coordinate tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies investigating missing Indigenous people, a position that has been discussed for years.
Now, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he cannot find the necessary funds to establish such a position.
“I kind of expected it, although I got a lot of calls, I got a lot of messages saying ‘hey this is going to happen, this is going to happen, I was like great but when? By the time they decided they really actually going to do that, we’re just going to have more missing Indigenous people in this state and our numbers are pretty high,” said Mendoza.
Mendoza says in 2020, 90 people were missing in the state, 67 of them Indigenous women.
But she also says that although these numbers sound high, in reality, there are probably even more missing women.
“And we know that those numbers are probably not right because it’s very difficult to gather data, our way of getting out information through the missing and murdered is via Facebook, on average, I can tell you I get 10 to 15 a day, through the night,” said Mendoza.
Mendoza helps many Native American families, either with the looming question of a missing loved one or the grief of a murdered one.
“And it gets back to that time, how quickly, how quickly can they go and find the person? And they’re waiting too long. And if they do find them, whether they’re missing or murdered, then it’s another waiting game which I shared with them, I said, well it’s going to be a waiting game,” said Mendoza.
Last year, the Legislature created a one-person office under the attorney general to specialize in the missing Indigenous efforts with the hopes of federal or tribal funding. Ravnsborg said the funding has not happened.
“It’s a crisis here in our state and they don’t take it seriously, so that’s an issue, that’s a huge issue,” said Mendoza.
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