As the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People crisis continues to grow in South Dakota, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender issued a proclamation declaring May 5, 2021, as National Awareness Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
The proclamation comes on the heels of House Bill 1199, which Gov. Kristi Noem signed last month. House Bill 1199 establishes the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons to help tackle the myriad jurisdictional conflicts between state, federal and tribal agencies that complicate efforts to find Indigenous people who go missing.
Combined, the efforts not only raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People but also mean actionable steps are starting to be taken to combat the crisis. But more needs to be done, the ACLU of South Dakota said.
“It’s impossible to overstate the harms the MMIP epidemic has had -- and continues to have -- on the lives of Native people across South Dakota and across the country,” said Candi Brings Plenty, ACLU of South Dakota Indigenous justice organizer. “As a community, for years we have mourned the deaths and disappearances of far too many family and community members with no justice in sight. No family or community is immune to the pain caused by this tragic epidemic. We hope to see lawmakers take the momentum from efforts like Mayor Allender’s proclamation and House Bill 1199 to continue to support solutions to bring justice to Native people and communities.”
Nearly 70 percent of the missing persons in South Dakota are Native American, according to state records. The U.S. legal system, with some exceptions, prohibits tribal jurisdiction over perpetrators of crime who are not citizens of tribal nations. This allows many to commit violence against Native Americans with impunity.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.