“What do we owe the original inhabitants of this land who are still here?” asks University of Colorado graduate Lila Crank, 22. Crank is active in the crisis surrounding missing and murdered indigenous woman in the United States.
“I’m a Native woman, and I’m ten times more likely to be murdered than my white counterparts,” says Crank. “Sexual violence is intimately tied with the murders and missing cases of Native women. Native women are ten times more likely to be murdered then white women. One in three Native women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. But those are the ones who report the violence, so it’s likely higher. Right now, we have over 5,000 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.”
Often, due to systemic poverty, the victims can have addiction issues or be sex workers and these cases are devalued or rarely investigated.
Photo of Lila Crank on the CU Campus holding a knitted piece from her grandmother with the basket weaving pattern of the creation story. The moccasins represent the steps of "those who have come before us and will come after us."
“Jurisdiction is a big issue,” says Crank. “Tribal governments can only give three years (in jail) for murder (on the reservation) and a $1,000 fine.” It’s because of this that the tribes will drop cases or hand them off to the Federal Government, which does not prioritize them.
Crank created an awareness campaign with the Volunteer Resource Center, located on the CU Campus, for others to lean about missing and murdered indigenous women. The campaign teaches volunteers how to advocate in their own communities. Volunteers write state representatives and state senators about particular bills addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women on both state and Federal level.
Crank also created a curriculum on violence of indigenous women, for Native or ethnic studies classes. “That piece of education is integral to building a foundation for future advocacy for Native students. Everyone has different responsibilities and different relationships to this issue,” says Crank.
Recently, Colorado created a state department for Native people. Many Native women work with it to track cases. “Some policies have been passed,” says Crank. “People are showing up for search and rescue.”
Crank is most interested in the academic side of the issue. She says, “It’s about bringing the conversation to where we are as a community and how we can support one another. It’s about conversation and the next steps.”