It's an alarming statistic that hits close to home — a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that Anchorage has the third-highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls statewide. Nationally, Alaska ranks fourth-highest.

On Thursday, a dozen Native organizations sent a letter to newly elected Gov. Mike Dunleavy, asking that he make funding available to continue investigating these cases. 

“For far too long our missing and murdered Alaska Native women and girls have been ignored and it is time that we stand together to demand action that will bring justice to our women, girls and their families,” Kendra Kloster, executive director of Native Peoples Action, wrote in a news release Thursday. 

In a prepared statement, Dunleavy he is aware of the concerns brought forth. First lady Rose Dunleavy is an Inupiaq and Dunleavy has three Alaska Native daughters.

“As the father of three girls, my heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones to violence," Dunleavy said in the statement. "Public safety in Alaska is broken and I am committed to fixing it.”

In a press release last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski urged action from Congress. 

The organizations point to a lack of data in what they call a nationwide crisis. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women across the country, but the Urban Indian Health Institute believes national databases lack quality statistics because of widespread under-reporting. 

"The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases," the report states. 

In Alaska, advocates say action speak louder than words.

"We need funding in the state operating budget for the Department of Public Safety to begin thorough investigations and funding for the Department of Law to prosecute the cases that are brought forward," said Alaska Native Peoples Action's communications director, Kelsey Ciugun Wallace.

Co-signers on the letter to Dunleavy include:

Native Movement
Native American Rights Fund
Tlingit and Haida Central Council
Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 70
Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 70
Fairbanks Native Association
Alaska Native Women's Resource Center
Beaver Village Council 
First Alaskans Institute 
Kawerak, Inc. 
Pathways to Prevention

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