UC Berkeley alumna creates database of missing, murdered indigenous women in US, Canada

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Over the past three years, UC Berkeley alumna and University of Lethbridge doctoral student Annita Lucchesi has compiled her own database of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States and Canada — uncovering 200 to 300 new cases per year.

Lucchesi began the database as a master’s student in 2015 at Washington State University while conducting cartography research, after she discovered that there was no general consensus about how many indigenous women were killed or had disappeared in the United States and Canada.

Lucchesi’s sister — Allie Lucchesi, a campus sophomore who intends to double major in sociology and legal studies — has been assisting her for the past few months.

“None of the lists match, none of them are updated frequently, and it was really just a mess,” Annita Lucchesi said. “And so for me, at that point, I felt like I had a responsibility to step in and create something cohesive.

So far, Annita Lucchesi has documented 2,668 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women, dating from 1900 to the present. The majority of the information is fairly recent, with 90 percent of these cases occurring after 1980 and 75 percent occurring after 2000, according to Annita Lucchesi.

Annita Lucchesi said that although the database is not posted publicly anywhere, anyone can access it for community awareness or policy purposes by asking her for permission.

The data are collected in various ways: from state and federal missing persons databases, from public record requests to law enforcement offices, and from the community at large — lists compiled by activists, tips from family members and friends of victims, social media and news articles — Annita Lucchesi said.

According to Allie Lucchesi, many of the cases are missing most of their information. Allie Lucchesi said her job is to try and fill in as many gaps as she can.

“Some (cases) don’t even have the name of the victim … and there’s no information regarding the perpetrator — if they’ve been convicted, what their race is … if it’s even been solved,” Allie Lucchesi said. “My job is to go through and find all of that information, and in some cases, I get to mark them as ‘found safe’ … but for the majority, it’s really just researching the grisly details of their death.”

Because of the lack of reliable information or full database, the sisters have to get creative sometimes to gather data. For example, Annita Lucchesi and a colleague were able to identify 30 murdered indigenous Canadian women by going through historical execution records.

Annita Lucchesi hopes that her database will not only lead to more indigenous women being found but also policy- and community-based solutions to protect indigenous women, a sentiment Allie Lucchesi shared.

“For those that are already departed and never had their voice heard, my goal for the database would just be for there to be a … systemwide revamping of the way information is collected on groups that are thought to be insignificant,” Allie Lucchesi said.

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.