The number of indigenous women who disappear and are murdered in the country is an issue that many might not know about.
On Wednesday, Ted Wheeler, the Human Rights Commission and various other organizations are looking to do something about it with the help of an awareness event.
Violence against indigenous women is much higher than national averages and there’s one Pacific Northwest family that is all too aware.
“When my daughters and my niece and my son were searching in July in Montana they found a sweater that was identical to one that Ashley owns,” sister Kimberly Heavyrunner Loring said.
Ashley disappeared nearly a year ago.
“We just looked for her and we were told that she was hurt and put up in the mountains,” She added.
“I believe she was beat and left somewhere so now is she hurt waiting for us?” aunt Dana Loring said.
The 21-year-old was last seen on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana last June.
According to numbers cited at the event, indigenous women are two and a half times more likely to be assaulted and 10 times more likely to be murdered on some reservations.
“Offenders target reservation communities they know if they go and commit a crime against a native person that it's pretty easy for them to get away with it.,” Laura John said.
John is the tribal liaison for the City of Portland, a position that works to generate partnerships with tribal nations in the area.
She said the problem is rooted in a history of genocide, oppression and jurisdictional issues.
She also told FOX 12 that until recently tribes could not legally prosecute a non-native who committed a crime on an indigenous person.
On Wednesday, Mayor Wheeler recognized the silence on this issue and the need to speak up.
“The native people have been systematically erased from history over many many decades," Wheeler said.
The family is holding on to any hope that Ashley Heavyrunner Loring is alive.
“Do not give up until you bring your loved one home," Loring’s aunt said. "Start trying to put an end to this. Our girls are beautiful they don't deserve this."
The city has declared May 5th Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls Awareness Day.
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