The numbers are staggering. More than 80% of Alaskan and indigenous women and girls are victims of an assault at some point in their lives.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, in some Native American communities, the murder rate for women is 10 times higher than the national average. No one knows why but Tuesday in Arizona, the search for answers began.
"Today we are here with families, friends, advocates, and warriors who have led the fight for answers and today will see action," Governor Doug Ducey said prior to signing House Bill 2570.
The bill creates the Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It begins its work knowing only the grim statistic that way too many native American women and girls are dead or missing. Learning why it's happening and how to stop it is the outcome they seek.
"She vanished and she never came home." Debbie Nez-Manuel was three-years-old when her mother left home to look for her father. She never came back. She had been murdered and her body found a week later.
Pictures of Manuel's mother were held up behind the Governor at the bill signing. Nez-Manuel is a member of the committee, she says there is much work to do and many questions to answer. "How long has it been going on? How widespread is it? Are there targeted areas in our state we need to be mindful of," she says.
State Representative Jennifer Jermaine will also serve on the committee. "Today, we have taken a meaningful step toward bringing to light countless untold stories of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls,” Jermaine said. “For too long, these families have suffered in silence."
The committee is made of family members of victims, tribal leaders, legislators, and law enforcement. Their work will take them to the four corners of Arizona in hopes of ending the epidemic of violence that impacts Arizona's tribal communities..