SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Murder is the third leading cause of death among Native American women. According to the Department of Justice, for women living on reservations the murder rate is ten times higher than the national average.

But 70 percent of indigenous women live in urban areas, not reservations.  The Urban Indian Health Institute tried to track down data on the number of indigenous women missing or murdered in cities.

What researchers found was that data was difficult and sometimes impossible to get.

Click to read the full report

The two researchers asked 71 cities for data on missing or murdered indigenous women.  60 percent either didn’t respond or only had partial data. It turns out many didn’t keep track of race.

Out of the more than 500 cases identified in the report, 13 came from the South Dakota towns of Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

The researchers found that six cases in Rapid City were not in law enforcement records. We asked Sioux Falls police for the data provided for the study. Here’s a look at the four murder cases specifically of indigenous women on record.

Native Americans made up nine percent of population in South Dakota, but they account for 15 percent of the women murdered in Sioux Falls since the turn of the century.

Marvene Ross

September 3, 1999: Marvene Ross

On September 3, 1999, two men found the body of Marvene Ross on the railroad tracks at 13th Street and Menlo Avenue. The 20-year-old Native American woman known as “Doll” was hit in the head, kicked, strangled, rape and had rocks shoved down her throat. She was murdered by ex-con LaVance Owens.

Melissa Aadland

July 13, 2008:Melissa Aadland

The second case police have which identified the victim as a Native American woman was nearly 10 years later in 2008. 19-year-old Melissa Aadland died after her brother threw a beer bottle at her and it hit her on the back of the head. Michael Aadland was charged with manslaughter.

Jamie Wounded Arrow

January 6, 2017: Jamie Wounded Arrow

Nearly a full decade later, Jamie Wounded Arrow was stabbed and killed at her east side Sioux Falls apartment.  The transgender woman was killed by Joshua LeClaire who had a 13-page criminal record dating back to 2010.

Alicia Jumping Eagle

April 1, 2017: Alicia Jumping Eagle

A few months later Alicia Jumping Eagle was murdered by her husband Irving Jumping Eagle at her downtown apartment.  Jumping Eagle’s sister Katie Lovstad spoke to KELOLAND News after her death.

“We’re going to say goodbyes, and we’re going to make sure there’s justice for my sister and we’re going to keep her alive in our hearts and we’re going to do everything we can for her,” Lovstad said.

A judge sentenced Irving Jumping Eagle to 100 years in prison. 

Kennecke: Do you think there were only four cases of missing or murdered (indigenous women in Sioux Falls since 1999?)
South Dakota Rep. Tamara St. John: Absolutely not, unfortunately no. I think there are more than likely many more.

South Dakota Republican Representative Tamara St. John was behind a bill passed in South Dakota’s last legislative session. It creates a database of indigenous women who have gone missing or have been murdered in the state.

“It’s really about the gaps in between state, federal tribal and local law enforcement. When somebody goes missing or somebody is reported a runaway, there is so much involved with that, often Native women can fall through the gaps,” St. John said.

“Savanna’s Act” named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in Fargo in 2017 was reintroduced in the Senate this year.  Savanna’s Act calls for new protocols on reporting crimes against Native Americans.  

Just days ago, the results of a Canadian investigation were reported that the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who were murdered or disappeared across the county were victims of a quote, “Canadian genocide.”