Olivia Lone Bear, a North Dakota mother of five has been missing for more than a month.
Her disappearance marks a disturbing rise of missing Native women who have the highest rate of missing persons in the United States.
The area of Bear’s disappearance correlates with the 2005 Bakken oil boom. Discovering oil in North Dakota resulted in the arrival of 100,000 outside men who live in man camps while working in refineries.
Since the Bakken Boom, reports of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking escalated.
Often families and tribal members of missing women form search parties. Rarely do reports of their disappearance make the local news. In Bear’s case, her family works feverishly to spread the word of the disturbing epidemic of missing women.
One of the issues linked to Native women disappearances is lack of transportation. Often Native populations hitchhike as a means of travel from remote reservations to cities. In some reports, women disappeared while going to or leaving reservations because many reservations do not have public transportation. Additionally, car ownership is far-and-few.
As well, addiction issues among indigenous women drive them to participate in sex work industry in other areas. Native women who live outside of reservations and face addiction have a greater chance of experiencing violence.
A Forgotten People
However, missing Native women is an issue that spans hundreds of years, says researcher Mary Annette Pember. When the U.S. forced Native nations to live on reservations, woman disappeared or were victims of homicide, regularly.
Most disturbing is the almost virtual silence covering this issues.
The lack of basic resources for many Native people points to their vulnerability. Although they live on land in which they do not pay taxes or rent, Native people are amongst the poorest groups in the United States which leads to a plethora of issues from inadequate healthcare to low employment. On that list is domestic violence and victims of violence by non-tribal members.
Mary Annette Pember says that a study conducted by
“Congress found that between 1979 and 1992 homicide was the third leading cause of death among Native females aged 15-34, and that 75 percent were killed by family members or acquaintances.”
As well, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime.
Holding the highest numbers of victims sexual assault in the nation, many indigenous people believe that the numbers are far greater for rape and homicide than reported.