Missing Persons Cases And Murders Of Native Women Finally Addressed By State Government

By Caleb Barrick – Pioneer Reporter

At the beginning of November, state senate bill 172 went into effect. This bill, also known as “Ida’s Law,” was passed by the house of representatives in April of this year.

“Ida’s Law” is named after Ida Beard, an Oklahoma City resident belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes who went missing in June of 2015.

As of today, Ida’s case remains unsolved, and unfortunately, unsolved missing persons cases are very common in native communities.

LiErin Probasco, professor of sociology at OCCC, spoke to the Pioneer about this issue.

“Missing persons and domestic violence cases go hugely underreported, and then when they are reported, many databases don’t accurately track racial/ethnic data for missing person cases especially for multiracial or indigenous women,” said Probasco.

LiErin Probasco, professor of sociology at OCCC (Courtesy Photo).

Native American women are more at risk for domestic violence, disappearances, and murder than any other ethnic group, and yet in a state with such a large native population, very little has been done about it.

“I once read that when indigenous women disappear, they disappear three times: first their physical removal from families and their own lives. Then, they disappear from the media, in that their cases are rarely covered or highlighted by news and social media. Then, also, they disappear from the data, the statistics we use to track missing persons cases,” Probasco said.

“Ida’s Law” aims at multiple state and federal organizations cooperating to gain federal funding in hopes of finally cracking down and solving these cases that have been neglected for so long.

There are potential complications when it comes to solving cases like this, however. Tribal governments are sovereign, and any cases involving someone in their tribe involves tribal enforcement and justice systems.

This means that state and federal governments will have to work alongside tribal governments in solving these cases.

“Tribal sovereignty has been significantly limited, but those limitations exist prior to and apart from a law like this one. This law doesn’t fix any of those problems, but I think it’s a positive step in the sense that it names specific avenues for cooperation between local, state, and tribal governments.” Probasco added, “It’s also an effort to counter the problem of missing information by creating specific standards for documenting and tracking missing persons cases, and sharing that data effectively across jurisdictions local, state, federal, tribal which is something that advocates for MMIW say is very needed.”

While the law went into effect as of Nov. 1, it will likely be some time before we are able to see significant strides forward with this new effort.

The deadline for the state and federal bureaus acquiring funding is Jan. 1, 2022. “There are some things that will help all people: better laws and enforcement practices/processes for recognizing, intervening in, and reducing domestic, dating, and sexual violence. Resources for victims of such violence and resources for those who perpetrate violence, including appropriate justice interventions and also education to help stop cycles of abuse,” said Probasco. “Then there are specific initiatives to target the needs and distinctive challenges facing indigenous women, such as the lack of visibility, the complicated legal jurisdictional issues that help cases fall through the cracks, and the problems with collecting and sharing accurate data.”