A group that advocates for murdered and missing Alaska Native women says the recent death of one woman is "heartbreaking" and "traumatic for our communities."

Kendra Kloster, Executive Director of Native Peoples Action, spoke to KTVA live at 6 p.m. Thursday night, discussing how Alaskans need to come together to understand and do something about the problem.

Here's the transcript of the full interview, edited for length and clarity:

Joe Vigil: A short time ago we told you that police have named 30-year-old Kathleen J. Henry as the woman found dead along the Seward Highway. Police confirmed to us a short time ago she is Alaska Native. One local group is trying to bring more attention to murdered and missing Alaska Native women. Kendra Kloster is the executive director of Native Peoples Action. Kendra, first of all, thanks for being here.

Kendra Kloster: Thank you for having me.

Joe: What's your reaction to this? Here we go again — another murdered Alaska Native woman.

Kendra: It's really tough. We're just really tired of hearing all the violence that's going on against indigenous women. It's heartbreaking, it's traumatic for our communities and this is why this is one of the top issues for us. We can highlight the topic and start talking about it and figuring out what we can do to increase public safety all across Alaska.

Joe: Your group is working to, of course, draw attention to this. On the phone today, I asked you how many missing Native women are out there in Alaska. I will say your answer is a little surprising. What can you tell us about the numbers?

Kendra: That's the hard part, is we don't have solid numbers on missing and murdered indigenous women. Recently, just this year, the Urban Indian Health Institute released a report where they studied 71 different cities, seven of those were here in Alaska. Just out of these numbers that are coming out, we're seeing Alaska again being in the top 10 for missing and murdered indigenous women. This is just scratching the surface. Some of the things that they have pointed out is we need more research and we need to really understand the problem so we can talk to our policymakers, talk with our tribes and figure out how we best work together in addressing this national crisis.

Joe: What's been the problem in trying to come up with solid numbers? More importantly, what can you do to solve that problem?

Kendra: Well, there's a number of different things I think we need to be doing better. That's going to be working with law enforcement, having our tribes and our federal government, state government and local municipalities, local law enforcement, all working together. We need databases that are going to be sharing information. We need to be increasing public safety efforts all across the state. There are so many different ways that I think we need to address this, but we're going to have to do it together.

Joe: This must be, of course, very difficult for families and friends of these women, not knowing where they are. So what would help get the word out the best, as far as missing Native women, so they could be accounted for?

Kendra: Some of the things that we try to do as an organization and working with other organizations as well, is we hold healing and drum circles, we gather together, we talk about our stories and we share information. We also need to make sure that these cases are getting reported, so they are being counted. Again, a lot of the cases that we're looking at are not being classified. They may not be reported. There's a number of different issues that are going on here, but I think just getting out there, talking about it, working with law enforcement, working with our nonprofits is going to be helpful in addressing this problem. I do hope that we can look at this further and our policies. I hope that we can work with law enforcement and that we really work with our tribes as well. Those are the individuals on the ground that understand their communities and making sure that we get public safety, like I said, in every place across Alaska.

 

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