Report: Native American women, girls suffer more violence

A photograph of a teenager on a flyer posted on a bridge wall.
Marchers walk past a flyer in honor of Henny Scott during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples March in Minneapolis on Feb. 14. The annual event was held in honor of Indigenous people who are missing or have been killed.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Updated: 7:40 p.m.

Native American women and girls are far more likely than other Minnesota residents to be victims of homicide, go missing or experience others forms of violence, according to a task force established last year to address the crisis.

American Indian women and girls make up less than 1 percent of the state's population, yet they accounted for 8 percent of all women and girls slain in Minnesota from 2010 through 2018, according to state data included in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force report.

The report released Tuesday notes that about 15 percent of Minnesota's female missing persons cases every month are American Indian women and girls. From 27 to 54 Native American women were missing in Minnesota in any given month from 2012 to 2020, the report states. Their cases are usually poorly investigated and remain unsolved, the group says.

“For far too long, Native women have been, at best, invisible, and at worst, disposable,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement. “As Native women and girls experienced violence, went missing, or were murdered at disproportionate rates, too often, the cases and root causes went unexamined.”

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The task force recommends 20 steps to address the problem, including passage of the 2020 Violence Against Women Act. It also suggests the creation of an MMIW office and the expansion of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law to include all trafficking victims, not just those who are 24 and younger.

The high rates of violence against American Indian women and girls are well known within their community, but the cases were not well documented by the media or acknowledged by public officials until recently, the report said.

“Many of us have a story of a relative or loved one who has been missing or murdered,” Nicole Matthews, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and task force vice chairwoman, said in a statement. “This report with the included mandates is one more step that we are taking in Minnesota to address this issue and ensure that all our Indigenous relatives are safe.”

The 27-member task force was signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz in April 2019 to address the disproportionately high levels of violence against Native American women and girls. It comprises representatives from 11 tribal nations, community and advocacy organizations, legislators, law enforcement and legal experts. They talked to survivors and families, advocates, law enforcement, public health experts, tribal members and others in the writing of the report.