Activist creates new database to track violence against Indigenous women
Accounts of violence and murder toward Indigenous people are lost in history or left unrecorded. This became an even bigger problem for Indigenous women in places occupied by white men, such as mining or gold rush communities.
The Sovereign Bodies Institute was founded about a year ago by Annita Lucchesi, a Native American and activist. Lucchesi realized the need for a database of violence and murder against Indigenous women after needing one, and it not existing.
“It really bothered me because at that time in my life, I had just escaped a really abusive relationship that almost killed me,” Lucchesi said. “I also was being trafficked through that relationship, so I had a number of experiences where I almost was one of these missing and murdered Native women, so for me it was really personal and it really bothered me that if that had happened to me there was no guarantee that my story would be used to make sure that doesn’t happen to other women or girls.”
Four years ago, Lucchesi created her own database for missing and murdered Indigenous women, which eventually became the kickstarter idea for the Sovereign Bodies Institute.
Sovereign Bodies Institute’s website says SBI is a home for generating knowledge of how Indigenous communities are impacted by gender and sexual violence and looking into how they can continue to heal and find freedom from such violence.
Lucchesi has acquired around 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women cases in her database. Lucchesi founded SBI with the help of the Seventh Generation fund, an international organization for Indigenous peoples.
Chelsea Miraflor Trillo, an Indigenous woman and participant of SBI, received her masters from Humboldt State. Trillo continues to work with SBI and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women to advocate awareness towards these issues.
“Humboldt County is amongst one of the highest counties of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples,” Trillo said. “Students are usually in the area where community awareness and political action happen.”
According to Lucchesi, Humboldt and Del Norte County hold a third of missing and murdered Indigenous women in California. Lucchesi said the justice system contributes to missing and murdered Indigenous women and the lack of action taken. Lucchesi said Indigenous women are considered non-human, and the justice system refuses to hold non-Native perpetrators responsible.
Tammy Carpenter is a member of the SBI organization and an HSU alumna. Carpenter was subjected to the mistreatment of Indigenous people personally.
“I, myself, am a mother of a victim that was murdered,” Carpenter said. “It’s still unsolved as of today, so I like to support the organization for the awareness for all women. Not just Indigenous women. All women.”