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San Diego Buildings To Be Lit In Red For Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

People stand holding a flag to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous wo...

Photo by Christopher Maue

Above: People stand holding a flag to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women outside of the San Diego County Administration Building, May 5, 2021.

Several of San Diego's most prominent sites will be lit in red Wednesday night in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day.

Balboa Park's Botanical Building and lily pond, the County of San Diego Administration Center and the San Diego Convention Center will be illuminated in red starting at 5 p.m. A vigil is planned at 7 p.m. at the Botanical Building located at 1549 El Prado.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

Other Tribal Nation representatives will also raise a special flag at the County Administration Center in honor of the missing and murdered.

"Ninety-six percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native women victims of sexual violence is at the hands of non-native perpetrators; we have to protect Indigenous women against these kind of violent acts," San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said. "Speaking out is a good initial step to raise awareness about murdered, missing Indigenous women; but there is more work to do."

Mayor Todd Gloria said: "We must acknowledge the tragedy that indigenous mothers, daughters, sisters and friends have gone missing or been murdered at a rate much higher than any group. I'm hopeful that by bringing awareness to this crisis, we will encourage San Diegans to discover ways in which they can rally around our indigenous communities to offer understanding, protection and care."

The Strong Hearted Native Women's Coalition, in partnership with Fletcher and Gloria, designated the day in honor of those murdered and missing. Strong Hearted is a nonprofit, non-governmental tribal coalition founded in 2005 to bring awareness of crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence in Tribal communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average. Homicide is the third leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaskan Native women between the ages of 25-34, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The highest rates of murdered and missing AI/AN person reports are in the states with the highest population of Native people: California, Alaska, New Mexico, Montana and Arizona.

"As sobering as the statistics are, the problem has existed for generations, and data on an accurate number of MMIW is very limited," said Keely Linton, executive director of the Strong Hearted Native Women's Coalition. "Only recently have we seen a response by the federal government to address the crisis, and that response was driven by MMIW awareness events at the community level."

Linton said one reason justice can be hard to come by is a matter of jurisdiction. “We have to work around 3 different jurisdictions: the tribal jurisdiction, the state jurisdiction and the federal jurisdiction. So when we’re looking at prosecuting cases or seeking assistance for victims, it’s kind of maneuvering through those systems,” she said.

For more information on MMIW Awareness Day, visit strongheartednativewomenscoalition.org. More information on MMIW is available through the American Indian Resource Center, niwrc.org/mmiw, and on missing and unidentified person cases in general through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, namus.gov.

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