Video: If the News Doesn’t Cover Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Who Will?

The topic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) issue has largely been passed over by media and law enforcement.

Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to meet this end than any other ethnic group in the country, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As of 2016, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) has reported 5,712 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. However, this number does not reflect the true number of crimes committed against Indigenous women as there is no official system that coordinates data collection for these cases. While the NCIC has reported nearly 6,000 cases, the U.S. Department of Justice Missing Peoples has recorded only 116 cases, a testament to the discrepancy in data collection pertaining to this crisis. Currently, only 12 out of 50 states collect this information. The Biden Administration passed the Savanna Act and Not Invisible Act in 2021 to coordinate federal and state agencies in doing more to protect Indigenous Women.

Families and members of the community who have been impacted by this issue often turn to advocacy rather than rely on law enforcement. Nayana Lafond, an Indigenous artist from Massachusetts, paints portraits of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She has completed more than 100 works of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women since May 2020, presenting the final pieces to the families to help them in their healing process. With their permission, she displays the paintings at exhibitions across the United States to raise awareness. Over the past couple of years, she has taken to setting up these portraits in notable spaces, as she paints a new one, to educate the general public.

This video story follows Lafond, as she paints a portrait on the New York City High Line, and illustrates the pain and process that impacted families undergo when they have lost a loved one.

Editor’s note: This video was updated because the previous version misspelled Kit’s legal name.

About the author(s)

Heerea Rikhraj is currently a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism focused on reporting stories surrounding trauma, race and health.

Sabrina Zhang is a filmmaker turned journalist covering grief and arts & culture.