Hundreds gather in Minneapolis for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples March

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Friday, Governor Tim Walz joined advocates at the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples March in Minneapolis, which highlights the disproportionate rates of murder and violence among indigenous women and girls.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS marched along on Friday as emotions ran high.

Inside the Minneapolis American Indian Center people said the names aloud of their loved ones who are missing or murdered.

Thousands of relatives joined together in the Minneapolis American Indian Center to lift up the stories of their loved ones.

"It’s tough, I mean, I’m trying to hold composure. I want to find my father, and that’s the hardest thing right now. I’ve been hitting the streets every day," said Alicia Jourdain, whose father went missing this week.

But, it’s a tough road.

"Some of the trails just stop, and then nobody picks up the trail after that and I would really hate to see our community be lost like that," said Indian Health Board Business Coordinator Reva D’Nova.

Last fall, Walz and Lieutenant Gov. Peggy Flanagan launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Task Force to study the issue. The Task Force is working to identify the gaps and holes in data collection. It will make formal recommendations on the next steps by December.

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"It’s to really find out what are those missing pieces, who’s supposed to be collecting data, how are they reporting it, and how can we strengthen that so that we do have real numbers," said Nicole Matthews, Vice Chair of the Board and also the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition.

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The goal is to get the numbers but also to highlight the faces behind them.

Fourth and fifth-graders from Anishinabe Academy played drums and sang. Principal Laura Sullivan said, "The other part of it is spirit building, that having them really understand through and through, that they are sacred, valuable, indispensable and irreplaceable."

Margaret Belilla Necklace marched and said she was doing so, "To support our women and children and protect them."

Tribal elders and youth were among those putting one foot in front of the other.

"My biggest fear is that it’s going to be someone, it’s going to be me next, that’s the biggest fear," added Trella Oldrock, a Redwood Valley High School student who marched.

It was a day of both hope and pain.

"I’m also grieving for our relatives who aren’t here anymore and I’m grieving for our relatives who are missing," Matthews said.

The state has created a task force to study the problem and the city is helping raise awareness. Mayor Jacob Frey presented a proclamation that Feb. 14th, 2020, is Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in the city of Minneapolis.