Bringing Awareness to Invisible Racism


MMIW shawl dress at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

A topic that is not talked about enough is the racism towards Indigenous people in North America. One of the biggest crises that Natives face is the missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States and Canada.

Indigenous women are being murdered at a rate 10 times higher than any other ethnicity. Most of the murders are committed by non-natives on native-owned land (native women wilderness).

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement is always overshadowed by other movements such as the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Stop Asian Hate movement. All the racial movements mentioned are great ways to stand up and show awareness to racial crimes, but no one seems to know about the invisible racism that Natives have to face everyday.

History is littered with racism towards Native Americans. Native Americans were one of the last ethnic groups given the right of citizenship and voting rights in the United States. This is ironic given the fact that Native Americans were on the land before anyone else.

Police brutality is another leading cause of racism directed towards Indigenous people. According to CNN and the Center of Disease Control as of 2017, the rate at which Native Americans are killed due to police brutality is at a higher rate than any other ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada. The CDC’s data shows that for every 1 million Natives, 2.9 are killed due to police brutality. This makes the mortality rate 12 percent higher than African Americans and three times the rate of caucasians.

The MMIW movement mentioned earlier brings awareness to some of the most tragic recurring events in modern history. Indigenous women are highly susceptible to human trafficking and rape. Women from different tribes go missing everyday and are often never found alive again. According to NBC News, as of 2020 there are an estimated 4,300 missing Indigenous women in the United States and Canada. Most of these cases usually end up unsolved as some police departments put little effort into trying to find these women. These heartbreaking statistics affect tribes across all of North America.

The overall suicide rate in the U.S. is up 33 percent since 1999, but for Native Americans it is up 139 percent according to the NICOA. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for Indigenous people across North America. Indigenous people are given less resources to help cope with their anxiety and depression. On a lot of reservations there isn’t much help for dealing with depression.

“The world tries to tell us natives what is racist and what we should take offense to, like sports mascots and some politician’s platform,” Chris Spotted Eagle from the Southern Paiute Tribe said, “If we took even a fraction of that energy and resources used towards those efforts and used them for issues truly plaguing Natives, then our people would be better off!”

Racism towards Natives is transparent to many people who don’t understand what it is to be Native American. We need to bring more awareness to some of these topics, for more information or how to help the MMIW movement go to the Native Women’s Wilderness website.  In addition, The red dress project brings awareness to the MMIW Movement with the dresses representing the missing and murdered women.

American Indian Suicide Rate Increases