Oklahoma City, OK - A state representative is looking to address the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Oklahoma. Rep. Mickey Dollens’s proposal for a new task force is currently under review. Tribal members who say it’s desperately needed.

This task force would be one of the first steps towards collecting accurate data, through the collaboration between tribes and the state. 

Awareness is finally spreading across the nation, but this is not a new issue.

“When I heard that Oklahoma is tenth in the nation for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, I was appalled,” Dollens said. 

Dollens first learned about the problem when one of his own constituents told her family’s story. Tribal members say they all know a woman who has died or disappeared.

Most of those cases remain unsolved, making it even harder on a matriarchal community.

Retired educator and activist Debbie Hogue-Downing, a Choctaw woman, said, “In many cases, they’re the leaders. There are so many single parents these days also, so it’s hurting the family structure.”

The study aims to create a database for these cases, and gather experts and victims’ families to search for solutions.

“If we look at this as an ongoing systemic issue of colonization, then I think that we can better understand the issue and actually address the symptoms that are extending from it,” said Ashley McCray, an advocate from the Absentee Shawnee Nation. 

But the sovereign nations will first have to overcome an ingrained mistrust of outside agencies.

“It’s not just that we don’t trust them to report these issues,” McCray added. “It’s that when we are reporting these issues, they’re not taken seriously. They’re left to the side. They’re put on the back burner, and we’re not seen as human beings.”

Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Reggie Wassana pointed out, “The tribes don’t have jurisdiction over non-Indians, but in many times the public court system or the legal system will have jurisdiction over the tribes or tribal members.”

Dollens is awaiting approval from the state House of Representatives to move forward, but he hopes to move towards justice, one victim at a time.

“Right now this study is the most immediate thing that we can do,” Dollens said, “and we hope that a lot of unresolved answers come from this study if it’s approved.”

The proposal must be approved by July 19.