Report on missing Indigenous people features Alaska chapter

A red handprint, usually painted across the mouth, is a symbol that is used to indicate solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and girls in North America, in recognition of the fact that Native American women are up to 10 times more likely to be murdered or sexually assaulted. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

Fairbanks, Alaska (KINY) – A national report on missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous people features a separate chapter on Alaska’s situation, according to a University of Alaska Fairbanks assistant professor who helped create the document.

Michelle Demmert, with UAF’s Department of Tribal Governance, serves as a member of the congressionally established Not Invisible Act Commission. The commission submitted its report to Congress and federal departments on Nov. 1, 2023.

“Those of us from Alaska insisted that there be a special chapter laying out the unacceptable findings in our state and the meaningful change necessary to address the disproportionate rate of violence and targeting of our Native women,” Demmert said.

The commission was mandated by the Not Invisible Act, a federal law signed in October 2020. The commission has representation from law enforcement, tribes, federal agencies, and service providers.

Demmert, a longtime tribal judge and attorney, was among the commissioners representing tribal judges. 

The commission held in-person field hearings across the United States, including a well-attended meeting in Anchorage. Across 18 months, 260 individuals testified to the commission, sharing their expertise, their experiences, their suffering and hope, and their recommendations to address and reduce the tragic consequences of the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

“These victims are our sisters, aunts, mothers and daughters and include high rates of violence towards our men as well,” Demmert said. “We matter, our lives matter, and our stories need to rise to the level of national awareness to make meaningful change.”

The UAF Department of Tribal Governance is part of the College of Rural and Community Development’s Interior Alaska Campus.