British stone. Paul, Minnesota (WCCO) — The Minnesota legislature approved a new state office this year to devote time and resources to missing and murdered indigenous peoples. This is the country’s first such office that it hopes will be replicated across the country.
The Office of Indigenous Relatives of Disappearances and Victims originated from a state working group dedicated to this issue, which recommended the establishment of the office in its 2020 report to state legislators.
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The data compiled by the team found that although Native Americans accounted for only 1% of Minnesota’s population, they accounted for 8-9% of all girls and women murdered in the state for most of the past decade. It is estimated that in any month from 2012 to 2020, 27 to 54 Aboriginal women and girls are missing in Minnesota.
Advocates hope that the office will reveal this crisis that is little known to the general public.
“When we disappear, we disappear twice,” said Nicole Matthews, executive director and vice chair of the working group of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition. “When a person disappears physically, we will disappear once, and the second time we disappeared is in the media, whose face we heard, the story of whose face we heard.”
“It’s not just numbers,” she said. “These are our sisters, these are our relatives.”
Senator Mary Kunesh of DFL-New Brighton stated that the office will serve as a clearinghouse for state agencies, tribal governments, and community members. Its mission is to collect better data, assist local and tribal law enforcement agencies in handling outstanding cases and review outstanding cases.
Legislators allocated US$1 million for the current biennium.
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Kuneshen said that the consistency of the state governments will have a “significant impact” on solving the problem and will better coordinate with national efforts. US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and her department announced the establishment of a new missing and murdered unit to allow the federal government to fully investigate the case of the Indian state.
“The creation of this office is definitely a statement of values,” Kunesh said. “That is the state legislature and state resources saying,’We recognize that there is a problem.’ But we will also do our best to ensure that one day we will not let these women and girls and two spiritual members at such a high level. Missing or murdered.”
Both Cunei and Matthews hope that other states will follow Minnesota’s example.
In Wisconsin, the Justice Department last year established a similar missing and murdered Indigenous Women Working Group. The Minnesota State Assembly also voted this year to set up a working group on missing and murdered African American women.
Matthews said: “When we create models and responses that apply to the indigenous peoples of a community or state, we will have models, systems, and responses that apply to everyone in that community or state.”
The Ministry of Public Safety, which belongs to the new office, said it is still working to hire a new director for it. State law states that this person must be someone who “has close ties to the tribe or aboriginal community and has a good understanding of criminal investigations”.
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