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State of Alaska launches quarterly report on missing Indigenous persons

Alaska State Troopers

A first-of-its-kind report on missing Indigenous persons in Alaska has been released.

The State Department of Public Safety and the Anchorage Police Department collaborated to collect this data. It maps out hundreds of cases that go back to 1960.

There have been other lists of missing people, but this data base has an important new feature. It categorizes the circumstances surrounding the disappearances, identifying those which are suspicious.

Alaska Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell hopes this will be helpful.

“And that's something I always thought we should have had with the missing person's clearing houses, the circumstances of that person, why is that person missing. And now we've taken that step,” Cockrell saids.

The work is an outgrowth of Governor Dunleavy’s People First Initiative. It will be updated every quarter and can be found online.

“I want you to know how heartfelt I am on this, this issue,” Cockrell said. “And as long as I'm the commissioner, we're going to continue our focus on it and continue to listen and hopefully provide information that will help us in the future.”

Full interview with Alaska Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell on new quarterly Missing Indigenous Persons report.
Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Jim Cockrell

In the last quarter, from April to June, Alaska Natives and American Indians made up about 45 percent of the total number of people who disappeared in Alaska. During that period, 200 hundred Indigenous people were reported missing. Most of those were found, except for 25.

As director of the group, Data for Indigenous Justice, Charlene Apok welcomes the new report and says it’s what advocates for missing Indigenous people have been asking for, for years. She worked on earlier attempts to track their numbers.

“Sadly, I think what this really illustrates is a systemic issue of violence that's being perpetrated in our community in the state of Alaska,” Apok said. “And that should raise flags and alarms, and really start igniting justice.”

Apok hopes the database will continue to improve and provide more information about those missing, including their hometowns and Native cultural identities. Apok says it’s important that these numbers become more than just points of data.

“We know that these are very real loved ones missing from families who are missed and loved and mourned and grieved,” Apok said.

The Alaska Missing Indigenous Person’s report is not a complete accounting of those missing. It only includes numbers from the State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department.The Department of Public Safety hopes to include cases from other police departments in future reports.

Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.