Alaska Lists Names, Data on 280 Missing Indigenous People

Report is first broad effort to understand disappearances of Alaska Natives and American Indians
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 28, 2023 3:05 PM CDT
Alaska Lists Names, Data on 280 Missing Indigenous People
Jeannie Hovland, deputy assistant secretary for Native American Affairs for the US Department of Health and Human Services, poses with a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women mask in August 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska.   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Law enforcement has prepared a first-of-its-kind report detailing missing Alaska Natives and American Indian people in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Public Safety last week released the Missing Indigenous Persons Report, which includes the names of 280 people, dates of their last contact, and whether police believe the disappearance was suspicious in nature, per the Anchorage Daily News. In the report, the circumstances of each missing person are classified into one of four categories: environmental, nonsuspicious, suspicious, or unknown. This is considered a point-in-time snapshot because it includes people who were missing as of July 14. Austin McDaniel, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, said it's possible some have since been found.

About 75% of the cases fit in the environmental category: The person is believed to have died or disappeared in the wilderness after a plane crash, boat sinking, or other outdoor accident, and their remains have never been found. Some cases here date back to the 1960s, the AP reports. Even though some people have been declared legally dead, McDaniel said they are considered missing until law enforcement "lays eyes on them." Of the remaining cases, 18 were ruled suspicious, 30 as not suspicious, and 17 unknown. The list is not complete. It only represents missing persons cases investigated by the Anchorage police or Alaska state troopers and not those of other police departments in Alaska, like Fairbanks or Juneau. The statewide agency hopes smaller departments will contribute data for quarterly updates, McDaniel said.

Each name on the list represents a loved and missed person, said Charlene Aqpik Apok, executive director of Data for Indigenous Justice. This organization created its own database of missing and murdered Indigenous people in 2021 and has advocated for law enforcement to better track the issue. "This report was definitely a step in the right direction," Apok said. Detailing the circumstances of disappearances could present a clearer picture to law enforcement of the overall situation. "Going missing while going on a hike or hunting is very different than someone being abducted," Apok said. "We really wanted to clarify those circumstances."

(More Alaska stories.)

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