The Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) crisis has gained increasing attention in recent years in both Canada and the United States, including in Arizona. Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people face disproportionate rates of violence and homicide compared to non-Indigenous individuals in the state. The crisis has brought to light the longstanding issue of systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in Arizona, as well as the need for greater support and resources for Indigenous communities. In this interview, we speak with Kim Russell, the Director of the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care, about her experiences and insights on the MMIP crisis.
AZHEALTHTXT: Could you briefly describe the MMIP crisis and its direct effects in Arizona?
Kim Russell: The crisis has been going on for a very long time. Unfortunately, it is nothing new to us as historically our children have been kidnapped and put into boarding schools. Recently, advocates have been sounding the alarm and finally, there is some media attention to the issue. One of the things I’ve heard loud and clear recently is that we almost never Click here to enter text. see news about young American Indian women being kidnapped or murdered. It’s always others;, it’s never us so there’s never any attention drawn to it. A lot of news about MMIP comes out of Canadian Tribes and Nations, and then it started coming down here. We started to really echo the same things that were seen in the Canadian Tribes. What we’re also learning is that this isn’t just in Arizona, this is happening in other parts of the nation. The next step is discussing the solutions. We’re recognizing that a lot of the solutions are in legislative solutions, which is why we have task forces and legislative committees. This issue and its solutions are multifaceted.
AZHEALTHTXT: What changes would you like to see in terms of policy or legislation to address the issue of MMIP in Arizona?
Kim Russell: Senator Theresa Hatathlie had introduced a couple of bills that would have addressed this, but unfortunately, those bills died. I don't know exactly what we’ll see this legislative session. There is still a chance that some of the provisions from her bills might still get passed. In the past, there has been other legislation that has been passed already – Governor Ducey had introduced a law to create a 21-member Study Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. My agency had also worked on a bill to establish a sixth area health education center (AHEC). We heard from some of the tribes that there aren’t a lot of sexual assault nurse examiners in some tribal communities. The 6th AHEC regional center hopes to alleviate that by training nurses to become sexual assault nurse examiners, which relates back to MMIP. There’s a lot more work to do in terms of policy development.
Here are the adopted recommendations from the Arizona House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on missing and Murdered Indigenous People (December 15, 2022) (Page 18) 2022 list of legislative, law enforcement, victim compensation, and data improvement recommendations
AZHEALTHTXT: What message would you like to share with others about the importance of addressing MMIP in Arizona and supporting Indigenous communities?
Kim Russell: This is an issue that has been long overdue to be studied and create policies to prevent Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples. Not only awareness but for all organizations to be mindful and consider policies that they should change. There are still conversations to be had about this in the years to come. One thing that I recognize is that it is an issue that impacts indigenous people, but we are present everywhere. We present in health centers, on reservations, and off reservations. A lot of the issue happens in Maricopa county, in an urban setting; there is a responsibility on other organizations and institutions that aren’t tribal to be aware of the issue and how they can impact the issue in a positive way. Again, this isn’t a new issue for Indigenous populations, but it’s finally received recognition in recent years. It’s going to be a collective effort to impact this issue.
Because the MMIP Crisis is still relatively new, there are few resources available to help individuals and communities affected by this crisis.
Arizona victim compensation program
The victim compensation program provides financial assistance to victims of crime or others who may have experienced a financial loss as a direct result of a crime. The program covers expenses of physical harm, mental distress, and economic loss directly resulting from victimization. Click here to enter text.To submit an application for the Arizona victim compensation program, apply here.
Please email email@example.com if you have any other resources for individuals and communities affected by this issue.