Organizations work to investigate missing, murdered indigenous women cases in Nebraska

Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 7:46 PM CDT
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A study into indigenous women from Nebraska who are missing is coming to an end. It’s revealing problems in reporting and investigating these cases.

For over a year the Nebraska State Patrol, the Commission of Indian Affairs, and UNO have been studying the problems in reporting and investigating missing indigenous women.

"Reaching out to the different tribal entities, the local law enforcement and some of the reservation heads. And getting a feel for what's going on in those communities and what their perception of the scope of the problem is,” said Captain Matt Sutter, Nebraska State Patrol.

Through a series of listening sessions with different tribes - a wide range of issues were revealed to contribute to the problem.

"Everything from substance abuse, to domestic violence and even human trafficking cases,” said Sutter.

There’s also a cultural disconnect between law enforcement and Native Americans.

Captain Sutter hopes new training will bridge that gap.

"We worked with Legal Aid Nebraska and we came up with a curriculum for Native American cultural awareness that we are giving to all of our recruits,” said Sutter.

It'll eventually be rolled out to troopers statewide.

Professors at UNO found an issue in the number of missing women reported on sites like the Urban Indian Health Institute.

The site says there are 33 missing indigenous women and children in Nebraska. But that number can change wildly.

"On a day to day basis, the number of missing persons in the state, in the country changes,” said Tara Richards, UNO professor.

All of this work hoping to solve a problem plaguing not only Nebraska but the U.S. as a whole.

"As we move forward, the report will detail everything that we intend to do and hopefully we'll be able to reassess it in a year or two and see if the steps that we're taking are having an impact,” said Sutter.

NSP is also hoping troopers will eventually have some jurisdiction on reservations and allow them to help tribal leaders with their missing person cases.