These states are putting together Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task forces

“Today we start with the signing of what should have happened centuries ago.”

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Image credit: Lorie Shaull

Two states are leading the way in seeking justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Last month Minnesota launched the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. Over the next 15 months, the task force will compile a detailed report to guide law enforcement and the state legislature of “the systemic causes of violence against Native American women and girls.”

Local tribal elders and leaders were present for an opening ceremony, along with lawmakers and state officials.

“Today we start with the signing of what should have happened centuries ago,” Ojibwe elder Mary Lyons said. “Today we as Indigenous women rise. We’re not being forgotten today. We can call each of our missing and murdered women’s name out loud and we can embrace them in prayers. Today we let them know they did not fall to their deaths only to be forgotten.”

Also last month, a group of lawmakers in Wisconsin announced legislation that would create a similar task force in their state. The task force, which would include at least 17 people, 10 of whom would be citizens of Wisconsin’s Native American tribes or who work with tribal citizens, would examine the factors that contribute to higher rates of violence among Indigenous women and girls and solutions to mitigate the violence. The task force would present their findings to the legislature and tribal leaders in December 2020.

In addition to Wisconsin and Minnesota, six other states have already adopted similar task forces: New Mexico, Montana, Arizona, California, Wyoming, and Nebraska.

Violence against Missing and Murdered Indigenous women has been recognized as a nationwide epidemic. According to statistics from the Department of Justice, on some Native American reservations, women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average. There have been 5,712 reported cases of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls since 2016, yet only 116 were logged in the Department of Justice database.

Other shocking statistics reveal than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence, and Native Americans disappear at twice the rate per capita of white Americans. But these numbers only represent a fraction of the real data, as the lack of diligent and adequate federal response, along with overlaps in law enforcement jurisdiction, contributes to limited available statistics.

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