ST. PAUL, Minnesota (WCCO) – The Minnesota Legislature this year approved a new state office devoting time and resources to missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, the first of its kind in the country that advocates the hope that it will be replicated at scale national.
The Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Parents emerged from a state task force dedicated to the issue, which recommended the formation of the office in its 2020 report to state lawmakers.
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Data compiled by the panel found that Native Americans make up just 1% of Minnesota’s population, making up 8-9% of all murdered girls and women in the state for most of the past decade. Estimates show that 27 to 54 Indigenous women and girls were missing in Minnesota in any given month from 2012 to 2020, according to the report.
Advocates hope the office sheds light on the crisis largely unknown to the general public.
“When we disappear, we disappear twice,” said Nicole Matthews, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and vice chair of the task force. “We go missing once when the person is physically missing and the second time we go missing is in the media and we hear about the faces and stories we hear about. “
“It’s not just numbers,” she said. “They are our sisters, they are our parents.”
Senator Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, said the office will serve as a clearinghouse for state agencies, tribal governments and community members. He’s tasked with collecting better data, assisting local and tribal law enforcement in open cases, and reviewing unresolved cases.
Lawmakers have allocated $ 1 million in this biennium.
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Kunesh said compliance in state government would make a “big difference” in resolving the issue and also coordinate better with national efforts. US Home Secretary Deb Haaland has announced a new missing and murdered unit with her department to put the federal government’s full weight in investigating the cases in the Indian country.
“The creation of this office is definitely a statement of values,” said Kunesh. “It’s the state legislature and state resources that say, ‘we recognize there’s a problem.’ But we’ll also be putting our boots on the ground to make sure there is finally a day when we don’t have these women and girls and two spiritual members missing or murdered at such high levels.
Kunesh and Matthews both hope other states will follow Minnesota’s lead.
In Wisconsin, the Justice Department launched a similar task force on missing and murdered Indigenous women last year. The Minnesota Legislature also voted this year to create a Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women.
“When we create models and responses that work well for the indigenous peoples of a community, state, then we have models, systems and responses that work well for everyone in that community or that community. State, ”Matthews said.
The Public Security Ministry, to which the new office reports, said it was still working on hiring a new director for it. State law states that this person must be a person “closely related to a tribe or indigenous community and very familiar with criminal investigations”.
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