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UNT Health Science Center Helping In Search For Answers To Missing American Indian Women

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Native American women sing a song at a Pow Wow in February in San Francisco for missing and murdered Indigenous Women.

This year, serious national efforts have finally mobilized to investigate cases of Indigenous and Native American women and girls who have been disappearing for decades in the U.S.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center is using its forensic crime laboratory to try and help solve these cases.
 
KERA's Justin Martin talked about this with Bruce Budowle, executive director of the Center for Human Identification at UNT.

Interview Highlights

What's Known About The Crisis?
 
We know that the rate of missing people in these regions is about 10 times that, of the national average. So the consequences, the impact is so much greater per capita in native populations than in the other populations in the country that it's staggering. 
 
Why Have So Many Women & Girls Gone Missing?
 
Well, it could be a lot of things, and it's always difficult to assess because with over 500 nationally recognized tribes and another 60-plus state recognized tribes, it could be unique in every situation what may be the cause.
 
Resources, education, opportunity, all the things that promote these kinds of challenges of crime and social actions, probably combination of all those.
 
What's UNTHSC's Relationship With Montana State University Billings?
 
It's a great marriage in a sense, because we have different opportunities and access to help in the process. 
 
Obviously, the center for human identification at the health science center here in Fort worth has the capability to run DNA analyses on human remains or missing persons, unaccompanied children, whatever it may be to try to associate them back with families. That's an important investigative tool. 
 
Montana State University has a similar capability and they have great access and proximity to native populations and have good relationships with them. So they may be able to get better inroads into the culture, the trauma of victims and help build our program and their program to address the staggering issues that embrace the native populations. 
 
The Relationship Between Indigenous Groups & Law Enforcement
 
It's an interesting relationship and it's challenging. Some are very good. Some are more challenging. 
 
I mean, you have to accept that the indigenous people may not trust the U.S. government for the four centuries of history that they endured, so it's difficult at times to build that relationship. You have to be culturally informed. You have to be trauma informed. You have to be victim informed. 
 
And so as efforts grow, the federal government is trying to do more of that as they investigate, state governments are trying to do that, but it's a difficult bridge. 

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at Jmartin@kera.org. You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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