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Wisconsin Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force Holds First Meeting

The Wisconsin Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force is getting to work.

The group was formed in July after legislation to create the task force failed. It held its first meeting Friday.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force is made up of more than 30 people from around the state. They include State Attorney General Josh Kaul, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, lawmakers, abuse victim advocates, law enforcement and community leaders.

An overwhelming majority of Native American women make up the task force. 

The first half of the nearly four-hour long meeting was taken up by introductions. As more tribal members spoke, it became clear they weren’t apart of this task force just as a professional and a leader in their community, but because they have been personally affected.

“I’m here for all of my relatives, but specifically for my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, my nieces all who are survivors and who have lent their strength to me to help move this forward in the best way possible to create a safe, accountable and empowering environment for all of our relatives,” said Forest County Potawatomi Tribal Member Skye Alloway.

The U.S. Department of Justice has found that Native American women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said this task force is long overdue.

“When the numbers are right in front of our face, making sure that people are paying attention and this doesn’t continue to get swept under the rug. We have to meet with the urgency of yesterday,” said Barnes.

The goal of the task force is not only bringing awareness to this issue but to find solutions to prevent the violence and support victims.

“The problem with MMIW as many of you have said in your introductions is really, is really complex, it’s layered. It’s a huge problem. But a strategic way we can begin to create solutions is really exploring relationships between the systems and examining the issues within key components within MMIW,” said lead organizer Kristin Welch.

Attorney General Josh Kaul says a large part of that is getting a better picture of this issue in Wisconsin.

“Although it’s clear that there is significantly disproportionate impact on indigenous communities from some of these crimes involving violence against women, we don’t have a great sense of exactly what the numbers are, exactly where it’s happening because data that’s collected by the state isn’t really collected through that lens,” said Kaul.

During the first meeting, Chairs and Co-Chairs were selected and subcommittees were created. The subcommittees will meet more frequently and then report their findings to the full task force a few times throughout the year.

WXPR will continue to keep you updated on the task force's progress.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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