Frustrated by the lack of concrete numbers, a doctoral student at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge has created a digital database of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls cases in Canada and the United States.

Annita Lucchesi, who is completing her PhD in the university’s Cultural, Social, and Political Thought program, adds names to the database daily in her quest to make it as complete as possible.

“Initially I just started out with basic categories,” Lucchesi, who is a descendant of the Southern Cheyenne people of present-day Colorado and Wyoming, explained. “So, when and where it happened, their name, what nation they belong to, whether they're missing or murdered.”

Three years and 3,000 names later, Lucchesi feels like she’s barely scratched the surface.

“It’s hard to walk away with a sense of the trends in this data,” she said. “Three thousand sounds like a lot, and of course it is, but we estimate we're missing about 25,000 total.”

The majority of victims, Lucchesi adds, come from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. She has documented 272 cases alone in the province where she is studying.

“It's so easy to dehumanize these women and to say, ‘Well, she was a sex worker,’ or, ‘Well, she was using drugs,’” Lucchesi said. “Those are not only harmful stereotypes, but even when they are true, they’re true in a larger context of incredible violence and lack of opportunity.”

Lucchesi created the database for research purposes. Out of respect for the victims and their families, it is only available through request.

To Paul Tuccaro, whose sister Amber Tuccaro went missing near Edmonton in 2010, any project that could help bring closure to his family is welcome.

“We’re trying to get answers,” he said from Fort Chipewyan in Northern Alberta. Amber’s body was found in 2012. “We’ll never give up on trying to find justice for my sister, trying to find out what happened.”

For her part, Lucchesi hopes that something positive will come out of the tally.

“To see the grief that they go through, you know, there just aren’t words for it,” she said of the victims’ families. “So anything that I can help to alleviate that or help them navigate that, that's something I’m committed to.”

With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Nahreman Issa