As we honor the power, leadership, and solutions of Native women who are leading today, we also recognize the longstanding prevalence of gender-based violence targeting Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
To address the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women who are more likely to go missing or be victims of murder, a new bill HF1376 & SF36 aims to bring additional resources to the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. The bill, authored by Representative Alicia Kozlowski and Senator Mary Kunesh, funds rewards as incentive for information leading to the arrest or conviction in active cases involving an Indigenous woman, girl, or two-spirit person.
Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people face violence at alarming rates. In December 2020, Minnesota’s Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force released a report confirming that Indigenous and Native American women and girls are the most at-risk population in Minnesota to be murdered or go missing. Although Native and Indigenous women and girls make up just one percent of the state’s population, each month they account for 15 percent of new reports of missing persons. While this critical safety issue has been elevated by Native American and Indigenous women, girls, and communities for years, the issue is finally drawing public attention. A fund to address the investigation of these crimes is necessary to bring justice and visibility to cases that are too often ignored or dismissed.
The Women’s Foundation supports community-led responses and solutions, like this legislation to bring visibility and accountability to this horrific epidemic for our Native communities and neighbors. “We say their names and tell their stories, and we must do all we can to bring our Indigenous relatives home and create a state where they can thrive,” said Gloria Perez, President & CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, a supporter of the Fund.
From the early research of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition that helped pave the way for our MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign to end child sex trafficking, we know that that Native communities have the solutions. In our Road to Transformation Listening Session, Not One More: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, with families and advocates who have experienced this violence, participants voiced a shared vision for a future of healing and unity in their communities that is rooted in Indigenous traditions, compassionate accountability, and empowerment for young people. They are already leading solutions for transformational community healing that support and reclaim the sovereignty and well-being of Indigenous communities. The listening sessions explored the root causes and historical and contemporary traumas that put Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit relatives at risk of being targeted for violence, while elevating the healing Native ways that hold the power to reduce stigma, support women, and prevent violence.
The Women’s Fund of Minnesota supported the creation of a fund by the city of Duluth in January 2022. The funds are being used as an incentive to lead to the arrest or conviction in open and active case. Inspired by the open case of Sheila St. Clair, the Indigenous-led fund was established to help law enforcement agencies solve violent crimes against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
“This Indigenous-led and grassroots fund has been established to fill a really important gap to help us address injustices, and allowing law enforcement agencies to solve these violent crimes against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, while bringing justice and healing to our region,” said Alicia Kozlowski, now a State Representative from District O8B.
“This is not only an Indigenous issue. This is a community issue. This is a human issue. We don’t want to be invisible anymore because that’s how we disappear.”State Representative Alicia Kozlowski, District O8
The Duluth fund was the first of its kind in providing funds as an incentive for information leading to the arrest or conviction of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
“These are the dollars that can go to families to give them hope. To give them a chance at information and resolving cases. So many members of our community don’t have the resources to call forward information or to get closure. We want to give them the opportunity to have that,” said Katy Eagle, Executive Director of Mending the Sacred Hoop.
Now is the time for a state-wide fund to support, coordinate, and solve these cases. Please join us in advocating for this important initiative.
What the Data Show
To learn more about this issue, see our Listening Session report Not One More: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The session was moderated by Nicole Matthews, Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition.
Learn more about partner organizations leading this work:
• Mending the Sacred Hoop
• Minneapolis Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC)
• Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC)
• Minnesota Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives