ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Friday, Indigenous leaders and community gathered alongside legislators and state leadership to mark National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. Senator Mary Kunesh, Standing Rock Lakota descendant (DFL-New Brighton), joined Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, a White Earth Band of Ojibwe member, and other speakers to call for action to protect Native women, girls, and two-spirit relatives, who are at heightened risk of violence and death in Minnesota.
Senator Kunesh releases the following statement:
“Generation after generation of Indigenous communities have suffered the pain of losing loved ones through violence at higher rates than any other population. Today, I was honored to gather with Native communities and allies to continue our call for action in the movement to protect our women, girls, and two-spirit relatives. Forces like poverty, insecure housing and homelessness; and barriers to education, employment, health care, and cultural support have left Native relatives vulnerable to violence for too long. We must confront the racism, colonialism, and patriarchy and misogyny that lay at the roots of this oppression; we must make amends and reparations for genocidal state policies like Indian boarding schools and forced family separations; and we must do everything we can to uplift Native families and communities and ensure tribal sovereignty within Minnesota.”
In 2019, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force was created through 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.
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 are seven times more likely to be murdered than white women.
Photo, left to right: Senator Mary Kunesh, Representative Jamie Becker-Finn, Representative Heather Keeler. Credit to Minnesota Senate Media.