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Legislator calls for interim study into missing and murdered Indigenous women

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — An Oklahoma state legislator is attempting to help address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women at the local level.

On June 25, state Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City) filed a request for an interim legislative study on addressing the knowledge gap regarding jurisdiction when an Indigenous woman is killed or disappears.

The study would also create a system to collect data on these instances that would then be funneled through one point of contact in the state. This information would then be used to create a statewide database on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

An interim study is a review of legislative and policy issues that are often either the subject of a failed recent bill or may be the topic of an upcoming measure. Any member of the House or Senate may request one.

Dollens’ request came in after discussions with Indigenous constituents from his south Oklahoma City district and the leadership at the nearby Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes about the MMIW epidemic.

“This study is an opportunity to bring everyone to the table to address this,” he said. “My role in the study to give (MMIW) advocates … a platform to share their ideas, tell their stories and get their message out. This will work on streamlining data, help the Indigenous women who often feel minimized and ignored. This has been happening too long.”

According to data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than half of all Native women nationally are subjected to physical intimate partner violence at some point in their lives and one-fifth have been stalked. Native women are also subjected to higher rates of interracial violence than other groups, with an estimated two-thirds of the sexual assaults against Native women committed by non-Native men.

A study published in October by the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Urban Indian Health Institute ranked Oklahoma 10th nationally for the number of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, but also acknowledged that due to the dearth of data, the numbers are “likely an undercount.”

Representatives are allowed to request interim studies, but ultimately, the decision on whether they are approved resides with Speaker of the House Charles McCall (R-Atoka). All studies will be approved or disapproved by July 19.

“I’m in the minority caucus and our members don’t always get studies heard.  However, more awareness and more people calling the speaker’s office increases the chance of getting it out. It gives chance for these women, these advocates, to share their stories.”