RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – With national attention surrounding the disappearance and murder of Gabby Petito, advocates for indigenous communities across North Carolina are calling for a renewed effort to find justice for dozens of missing and murdered Native American women.
Crystal Cavalier, co-founder of the Missing, Murdered Indigenous Coalition of North Carolina and member of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, said the organization has around 90 women and girls so far in its online reporting database.
Most are from around Robeson County.
“If it would have been the same for some of the women here in North Carolina, maybe our cases wouldn’t be as much,” Cavalier said.
She believes that number could be much higher because of demographic misidentification of indigenous women and crimes can range beyond a disappearance or murder.
“It could be human trafficking, it could be domestic abuse, and it’s just different things that tie into that,” Cavalier said.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, four out of five American Indians and Alaska natives have experienced violence in their lifetimes.
The Missing, Murdered Indigenous Coalition of North Carolina pushed state lawmakers to take an active role in studying what leads to higher rates of violence and how law enforcement can better respond to missing persons’ cases.
“We want to get a task force established because, in order to tackle a problem, we have to understand what the problem is,” Cavalier said.
“When you take the invisibility away from our cases, it doesn’t hurt these other cases in the matter of fact it makes all these other cases of all these other cultures rise,” group co-founder Jason Crazy Bear Keck said.
The National Congress of American Indians also reported that murder rate among Native Americans is three times that of non-Hispanic White women.