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Minnesota House approves Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force

Minnesota House approves Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force Photo: KSTP/Joe Mazan

May 09, 2019 05:41 PM

A bill to create a Task Force on Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women in Minnesota has now passed out of the State House of Representatives.

Experts say it's difficult to know how many Native American women are missing. The goal of the task force is to understand the causes of violence and prevent it from happening. 

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"56% of native women experience violence in their lifetime," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton. 

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first reported on efforts to pass this legislation in January. KSTP profiled JoJo Boswell, a 19-year old Native American woman from Minneapolis who vanished in 2005.

RELATED: Lawmakers to discuss creating Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

"Members, we have an opportunity to be a problem solver," Kunesh-Podein said on the House floor Thursday. "With journalists and activists presenting alarming evidence that can no longer be ignored, I would ask you to join me in demanding accountability."

The task force would address what Kunesh-Podein calls an endemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Minnesota.  

It will provide data and analysis of the systemic causes behind the number of missing Native American women in the state. There is currently no state or national system in place to collect data on missing and murdered Native women in Minnesota.  

The task force will include members of the indigenous community, law enforcement, policymakers and the public. 

Families impacted by violence shared heartbreaking personal stories in committees throughout session. 

"Behind every missing or murdered Indigenous woman is a family and a community that have fought for action," Kunesh-Podein said.

"Today we mourn the women we've lost, but we have renewed hope that no one will have to wonder if their daughters, their sisters, their mothers and loved ones will come home when they walk out the door." 

The bill passed unanimously on a vote of 128-0. It is also expected to pass out of the Senate and has the support of Gov. Tim Walz. 

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