On September 19, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan launched the first meeting of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force with a ceremonial bill signing that brought together advocates, tribal representatives, law enforcement, and elected officials in their commitment to end violence against Indigenous women. The establishment of the MMIW Task Force was included in the 2019 Omnibus Public Safety and Judiciary budget bill (S.F. 8).
Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin attended the bill signing, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicole Anderson will serve on the 27-member task force.
When Nicole was working on her master’s degree, trafficking was one of her areas of focus, so she looks forward to being part of this effort. "I was humbled and honored to be appointed to the task force and look forward to working with other Tribal members and State officials on finding solutions to the tragedy of our missing and murdered women," said Nicole.
The MMIW Task Force, established with bipartisan support, draws attention to the disproportionate rates of murder and violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls, as well as the lack of attention these cases garner from media and law enforcement. Of the nearly 6,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, only 116 were logged in the Department of Justice’s database.
"Native women and girls are subject to violent crime at alarmingly high rates, and we’re taking action to end this dis- proportionate epidemic," said Governor Walz. "That's why we established a task force to examine the root causes of this violence, collect better data, and provide support to Native families who are caught up in this nightmare."
"This task force will rely on the experiences of survivors and families as it works towards identifying effective strategies grounded in community," said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. "We are witnessing increased awareness around this issue across Minnesota and the country, due to the courage and resilience of Native women who are telling their stories and those of the women we have lost but not forgotten. This task force is long overdue."
"We measure what we care about, and it's time we start collecting accurate and consistent data on Indigenous women who have been abused and gone missing," Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said. "This task force will help us ask the right questions and provide recommendations to reduce and hopefully end violence against Indigenous women and girls."
The MMIW Task Force consists of 27 members. The primary duties of the Task Force are: to advise the Commissioner of Public Safety; to serve as a liaison between the Commissioner of Public Safety, agencies, and organizations that provide legal, social, or other community services; and to report recommendations to the Legislature on how to reduce and end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Minnesota. The law requires them to provide this report by December 15, 2020.