The Minnesota House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee heard powerful testimony Wednesday about the need to establish a task force on issues related to violence against indigenous women and girls.
Video is available at the bottom of this post.
New Brighton Democrat Mary Kunesh-Podein's bill, HF3375, has begun to attract media attention after this second hearing. In MinnPost, Briana Bierschbach reports in Legislature proposes finding out why a staggering number of Native American women in Minnesota are murdered or go missing:
Mysti Babineau’s mother went missing when she was 2 years old.
The police never found her. Babineau, a member of the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, was thrust into the foster care system. She was raped when she was 9, and when she was a middle schooler she was attacked with a knife, giving her a scar she still bears on her shoulder today.
When she was 20, Babineau went missing herself. She was kidnapped in Isanti and brought to St. Paul, where she was raped and beaten. She believes she would have stayed missing or been found murdered if she hadn’t managed to escape from her assailants.
Babineau recalled those episodes between tears Wednesday morning in front of the Minnesota House Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, concluding with what might have been the most remarkable part of her experience: “My story is not rare,” she said. “Many of my sisters and many of my relations go through this ... and oftentimes when we do speak up and when we do speak out we are not heard.”
Babineau and others were there to tell their stories as part of an effort to pass a bill that would create a task force on missing and murdered Native American women in Minnesota. Despite making up less than 1 percent of the Minnesota population — there are around 28,000 Native American women and girls in Minnesota, according to the American Community Survey — Native women in the state are murdered at far higher rates than the national average, said Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton, a member of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe and the author of the bill. Between 1990 and 2016, the homicide rate for Native women in Minnesota was seven times that of white women, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Read the rest in MinnPost. At the Pioneer Press, Tad Vezner reported in Strong backing at Capitol for task force on missing, murdered Native American women:
A primary concern is the mish-mash of jurisdictions when it comes to crime on tribal lands: with tribal authorities having limited prosecutorial abilities once suspects leave; local non-tribal police having the same restrictions when it comes to crimes on a reservation; and the FBI handling anything on tribal land at the felony level.
Still, as Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, noted, many crimes against Native Americans take place off tribal lands — and testifiers stated repeatedly that they believed they were historically given less attention.
If the bill is passed, the task force would start in 2019 at an estimated cost of $79,000, and continue each year thereafter with an annual cost of $70,000. The bill mandates that in addition to including representatives from numerous law enforcement agencies, the task force must include at least four representatives from tribal governments.
The task force would be required to give an annual report to the legislature on a variety of topics, from causes of violence to indigenous women and girls, how to track and collect data, and the best ways to help.
The public safety committee voted Wednesday that the bill, which commanded broad bipartisan support, be included in the House’s public safety omnibus bill.
Those who have been following this legislation should take a moment and thank Chair Brian Johnson and the rest of the committee for hearing the bill; their official emails are available here.
Here's the video of Wednesday's dramatic testimony and committee discussion:
Photo: Willamette Morrison, part of the Red Lake Nation,whose daughter went missing in 1996; it was years before her remains were brought home. House Public Information Service.
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