MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — The issue of missing and murdered indigenous peoples has received more attention in recent years, but many who have lost their own land say it’s not enough. A new office of the state, the first in its kind, is working to change the situation.
Janice Hannigan (Roma L. Jim), Mary Johnson and Mary Johnson are just a few examples of missing indigenous people in America
Nicole Matthews is the executive director at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition. She says most people do not know much about the missing Indigenous people.
“Why isn’t Sheila St. Claire of Duluth, who’s been missing for six years, why isn’t her story there? Why don’t you know her name? Matthews asked how it is that we don’t know anything about Jojo Boswell who was 19, when she disappeared, and has been missing for many decades.”
Proponents claim that it is difficult to start an investigation because of a lack in communication and jurisdictional issues among state, tribal, and federal law enforcement.
“Our relationship with the federal government is very different from that of other racial and ethnic groups. Matthews stated that this is our land and everyone standing on Indian land is there. Our tribes do not have recourse if a non-indigenous individual enters our land and rapes indigenous women. or the FBI that does have jurisdiction in those cases denies prosecution, that person walks.”
Matthews served as vice-chair of the Missing and Murdered Women’s Task Force, Minnesota’s first state agency for Native missing and murdered relatives.
This effort was spearheaded by Mary Kunesh (Minnesota Senate).
Kunesh stated that he was still amazed at the speed with which we were capable of putting together this great legislation. “They were able to use funding through the governor’s office to create this initially, but it will also be supported by public safety dollars.”
Permanent funding means that the office is not being cut. They are currently working hard to create a database that tracks these names and cases.
Kunesh stated, “We need that connection there that can run und work between all these various instances.”
It is hard to find information because there isn’t a database. The task force managed to find some surprising statistics.
Matthews explained that the task force discovered that between 27 and 54 Indigenous women disappeared over a period of 10 years, depending on which month. “Indigenous Minnesota women make up about 1%, but 8 to 9% of all the murdered Minnesota women, so it’s a significant disproportionate impact on our communities.”
Marisa Clummings, CEO of Minnesota Women’s Resource Center, said that there is mistrust about the government of some tribesmen and women.
“I think about the lack of trust our people have in the systems in this country. Cummings stated that systems were designed to destroy us.