Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force gets first hearing

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Legislation to create a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force received its first hearing in March in the House Government Operations Committee (HF 3375). The bill passed out of the committee unanimously. The task force would advise the Commissioner of Public Safety and report recommendations to the legislature to reduce and end violence against indigenous women and girls in Minnesota.

Powerful testimony was provided by several Native women, including Mysti Babineau, Linda Thompson (Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition), and Patina Park (Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center). “Previous reports from across the country tell us that Native women and girls experience violence at rates much higher than the rest of the population and Native girls are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking,” remarked Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL Roseville). “Now is the time to finally bring this issue in to the light, to lift up these voices and stories. These individual stories of violence are all connected to families and communities and those effects go on for generations. We have to start somewhere and this bill is the first step to addressing this issue.”

The task force would consist of members of law enforcement, state agencies, tribal governments, community organizations, and groups that support indigenous women. The task force would report annually on policies and practices that are effective in reducing gender violence and increasing the safety of indigenous women and girls. It will also report on ways to help victims and communities heal from gender violence and violence against indigenous women and girls.

The bill is chief-authored by Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (New Brighton) and co-authored by Rep. Becker-Finn and other members of the Native Women’s Caucus: Rep. Peggy Flanagan (St. Louis Park) and Rep. Susan Allen (Minneapolis), as well as other legislators from both parties. The bill was referred to the House Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee.