Senator Mary Kunesh Calls for Action at March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives

ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Wednesday, Senator Mary Kunesh, Standing Rock Lakota descendant (DFL-New Brighton), marched alongside Indigenous leaders and community in the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives March. Senator Kunesh and other speakers called for further action to protect Native women, girls, and two-spirit relatives, who are at heightened risk of violence and death throughout the unceded lands of Mni Sóta Makoce, which shares geography with the government of Minnesota.

“Generations of Indigenous communities have lost loved ones through violence at higher rates than any other population,” said Senator Kunesh. “The historic and ongoing violence contributes to barriers to education, employment, housing security, healthcare, and cultural support, and these forces have left Native relatives vulnerable to violence for too long. We must continue to organize and take action against racism, colonialism, and misogyny, and make amends for the history of genocidal state policies like Indian boarding schools and forced family separations. I will continue do everything we can to uplift families and communities, especially Native families and communities, and ensure tribal sovereignty within Minnesota.”

Indigenous people make up one​ percent of Minnesota’s population, but between 2010 and 2019, nine percent of all murdered girls and women in the state were American Indian. Minnesotan Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are far more likely to experience violence, be murdered, or go missing compared to other demographics, and they are seven times more likely to be murdered than white women.

In 2019, then-Representative Kunesh passed legislation establishing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force with unanimous bipartisan support of the Minnesota Legislature; and in 2021, Gov. Tim Walz signed into law the legislation to establish the first-in-the-nation Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office. Senator Kunesh was chief author of legislation in the 2023 session that created the MMIR special license plates that contribute funds to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office, and she passed legislation to strengthen the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act.

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Mary K. Kunesh represents Senate District 39, which covers the communities of St. Anthony Village, New Brighton, Hilltop, Columbia Heights, Fridley, and a portion of Spring Lake Park.

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