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Tammy Carpenter was in tears as she drove through a rural stretch of Northern California two years ago to Shasta County, near where her adult daughter, Angela McConnell, was found shot to death with her boyfriend in an encampment favored by transients. She still remembers the way a sheriff's detective, who was not Native American, like herself, handled the delicate conversation. Carpenter said that his line of questioning insinuated that her daughter had come from a broken home where no one had jobs and all were involved with drugs.

We worked. We all loved Angela. With society today, people look and think: 'It's another dead Indian girl. Probably a drug addict. Who cares? The mysterious circumstances surrounding McConnell's killing is one of hundreds of cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls across the United States that never garnered national headlines or social media attention or demands for justice from powerful people.

The absence of awareness or widespread scrutiny in these cases is the focus of a report released Thursday that documented 2, missing Native American women and girls in the U. Nearly 60 percent of the cases are homicides and 31 percent involve girls 18 and younger, according to data analyzed by the Sovereign Bodies Institute , a nonprofit, Indigenous-led research organization that began counting and mapping such missing and murdered cases over the past few years.

In addition, nearly three-quarters of the cases had victims who were living within the foster care system when they went missing. The vast majority of cases in the U. The perceived lack of sensitivity from law enforcement when Carpenter's daughter was found dead isn't unique. In the Sovereign Bodies Institute report, families described insufficient cultural awareness from law enforcement, as well as "poor or nonexistent communication with families and survivors, chronic lack of cases being brought to justice and Advocates have long complained about the lack of comprehensive state and federal data on missing and murdered Native Americans, which is often linked to incidents of sexual violence and human trafficking, and they believe poor record-keeping, racial misclassification and adverse relationships between tribal governments and outside law enforcement have led to an underreporting of cases.

The institute's report focuses on the corridor between Northern California and the border with Oregon, which can be largely isolated and requires law enforcement to cover large areas with fewer resources compared to bigger city departments. Researchers said they examined cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from the region and found that 62 percent of cases were never included in any official missing persons database; 74 percent of cases have no public documentation related to manner of death, whether charges were filed or a suspect or person of interest was found; and 56 percent of cases don't mention or make public the victim's tribal affiliation.

However, tracking tribal affiliation has begun to change recently, with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System , a national clearinghouse that falls under the Justice Department, making such information available as of June.

The Justice Department last fall announced a federal initiative known as Operation Lady Justice , which was formed to help combat violence and human trafficking involving tribes. A study by the National Institute of Justice estimates that 1. On Monday, Ivanka Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt touted the opening in suburban Minneapolis of the first federal task force office dedicated to solving cases of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, including men. Six more offices will be opened next month throughout the country, although none in California.

Annita Lucchesi, a Cheyenne descendant who started the Sovereign Bodies Institute, said becoming invested in the issue has to go beyond opening an office and also requires the difficult work of meeting with families and understanding the systemic racial and economic disparities that foster cycles of violence, poverty and crime. The Sovereign Bodies Institute collaborated with the Yurok Tribal Court, which is part of the Yurok Tribe in Northern California, to compile and analyze the latest data focusing on the region. Abby Abinanti, the chief judge of the Yurok Tribe and the first Native American woman to be admitted to the California State Bar , said attitudes toward Indigenous women today can also be traced historically to the stealing of Indigenous children to work as indentured servants for white settlers through the Civil War and the sending of thousands of Native American children to boarding schools for federal assimilation programs in the late 19th century, in effect severing cultural connections and damaging familial relationships through the generations.

Abinanti said that while it's important for tribal, local and state jurisdictions to find common ground in order to solve cases today, a lot of mostly rural communities are struggling to respond with adequate resources, and many don't have the staff with the cultural competency in working with Indigenous communities. Kyle Wallace of the Shasta County Sheriff's Office said every homicide comes with its own set of challenges, whether or not the victim is Native American or lives on or off a reservation, and rural departments in particular face geographic barriers and crime scenes that "don't fit into a single box.

Carpenter said her daughter, who had planned to study nursing in the fall and loved writing poetry, was "in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not just adults who are traumatized and seeking answers, either. Her year-old daughter has tried to piece together what happened to her mother, who had been battling drug addiction and suffered from seizures.

She said she knows the people her mother had been socializing with, and believes someone can say definitively whether she's still alive or not. She'd like the police to keep on the case. The teen has pingponged between family members and now lives in Washington state, a place she believes will help her to stay clean. There, she has a passion fruit tree she waters in memory of her mother. IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. Politics U. Share this —. Follow NBC News.

By Erik Ortiz. January Native American women missing or killed in unsolved crimes Jan. Politics Ivanka Trump accused of 'cheap' stunt for call to solve Native American cold cases. Sheriff ShastaSheriff September 12, Erik Ortiz.

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