I first learned of this from Lucas Brown Eyes (@LucasBrownEyes). He tweeted, “October 11th, 2020 we scraped the data from South Dakota’s Missing Children website and found that 88% were native. And nobody is talking about it.” Where are South Dakota’s missing native children?
This isn’t the first time South Dakota has come under fire for its handling of the welfare of indigenous children In 2011, the AP found that “Nearly 700 Native American children in South Dakota are being removed from their homes every year, sometimes under questionable circumstances”. An analysis found that while native children made up 13% of the population, they were 79% of all foster children. However, South Dakota doesn’t make it easy to track missing children. A central database was only created in 2020.
South Dakota government and law enforcement are starting to address the epidemic of missing children. The AP reports that a new law passed in South Dakota, which requires the Division of Criminal Investigation collect data on missing and murdered indigenous people. It also requires the division to provide special training to agents on how to handle these cases. The Office of the Attorney General notes that “South Dakota usually has 80 to 90 active missing children cases at any given time.”
So where are South Dakota’s missing native children? Did they disappear into foster care, and then run away? Were they kidnapped and trafficked? No one seems to know. Lucas Brown Eyes did note that many of the missing were girls, 14-17. But without further investigation and advocacy, the lost will remain lost.