Doctoral Student Compiles Database Of Indigenous Women Who've Gone Missing A Southern Cheyenne woman found no solid data on the many indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada who have gone missing or been killed under suspicious circumstances. So she compiled it herself.

Doctoral Student Compiles Database Of Indigenous Women Who've Gone Missing

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As many as 300 Indigenous women go missing under suspicious circumstances every year in Canada and the U.S. We don't know the exact number because no one has comprehensively tracked it. As Yellowstone Public Radio's Nate Hegyi reports, one woman is trying to do just that.

NATE HEGYI, BYLINE: There's a storm rolling in over the Blackfeet reservation in Montana.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN)

HEGYI: The clouds are low and dark as distant lightning cracks over a green prairie. Wade Running Crane is starting to get wet.

WADE RUNNING CRANE: This is like a sign from Ashley that she's here.

HEGYI: Yeah, because I heard someone say that Ashley liked this kind of weather, yeah?

WADE RUNNING CRANE: Yeah.

LOXIE LORING: Yes, she did.

WADE RUNNING CRANE: She's here.

LORING: She liked this weather.

HEGYI: That last voice is Ashley's mother, Loxie Loring. She says her daughter loved riding horses, writing poetry.

LORING: She was outgoing. She wasn't scared of anything. She - and for how small she is, she was - she was...

HEGYI: Ashley disappeared a year ago. She was 20 then and had plans to live with her sister in nearby Missoula. But then police and people close to her believe Ashley was taken somewhere against her will. Now the FBI, tribal cops and the local sheriff's department are all investigating.

LORING: She's not gone because she wants to be gone. I know something happened to her.

HEGYI: Spend time in Indian Country and you'll hear this story over and over - a niece, a daughter or a cousin who is taken quickly and violently from this world. But despite these stories, the FBI isn't really tracking the numbers.

ANNITA LUCCHESI: I would venture a guess that if we did have the data, it would show that native women are more disproportionately represented.

HEGYI: That's Annita Lucchesi. She used to teach Ashley Loring at the local community college in Browning, Mont.

LUCCHESI: She didn't know how smart she was. She was always so happy whenever she got a good grade and - really? Really? I got an A? Yes, you did; you're smart (laughter).

HEGYI: Lucchesi is a doctoral student at the University of Lethbridge in Canada now. And back when she was working on her master's thesis, she tried to find the total number of Indigenous women who were either killed or went missing in the U.S. and Canada.

LUCCHESI: After kind of doing some Googling, I realized, well, nobody has the right number.

HEGYI: Even if a local police report is filed, some of those cases never make it to the FBI's crime database. This is because there's no requirement to file those reports nationally unless the person is a juvenile. Lucchesi says this allows many native women to fall through the cracks, so she's creating her own database by filing public record requests with local law enforcement agencies. So far, she's documented more than 2,000 cases across both the U.S. and Canada. Most occurred over the last 20 years. And Lucchesi says she's shocked how much data is missing.

LUCCHESI: And really, it's not just data. That's someone's relative that's collecting dust somewhere and not - and no one's being held accountable to remember or honor the violence that was perpetrated against her.

HEGYI: Canada has an ongoing federal investigation into the issue, but data isn't really getting updated. Last year, Congress introduced Savanna's Act. It requires an annual report on the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But since a Senate committee hearing back in October, nothing's happened, and frustration about all this is mounting on the Blackfeet reservation. On this day, a large crowd calls for justice for Ashley Loring as they march down a main highway, blocking traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Yelling).

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN BEEPS)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Yelling).

HEGYI: Ashley's cousin Ivan MacDonald is marching with them. He's getting weary.

IVAN MACDONALD: We already know this is a crisis, and we don't need statistics to sort of legitimize it for us. We need statistics to legitimize it for everyone that isn't us.

HEGYI: Ashley Loring has been missing for a year, along with an estimated 270 other Indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada. For NPR News, I'm Nate Hegyi in Browning, Mont.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This story comes to us from the Mountain West News Bureau public radio collaborative.

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