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Wisconsin launches Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force

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MADISON, WI-- The Native American community is dealing with a crisis: its women are being abducted and murdered.

The community has had enough, so now the state of Wisconsin has created a task force to help solve the problem.

"Historically, women of color and Native women have been targeted since colonization. So, this is nothing new," said Rene Goodrich, an advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women and community organizer.

The abduction, murder, and trafficking of Native women and girls is an old problem begging for a new solution.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul says, "There is a significantly disproportionate share of indigenous women who are missing and murdered both in Wisconsin and around the country."

Placing a magnifying glass over Wisconsin, 12 tribes have recently started to collect new data to document the women who have been murdered or who are still missing.

Looking at 2019 data from just one of those tribes, eight women were murdered or remain missing. But those numbers don't account for the cases not even reported.

While documentation within tribes is improving, Kaul says solid tracking of these cases on the state and federal level is virtually non-existent. Meaning it's tough to put numbers on exactly how many have been impacted.

"I think there's some uncertainty as to when cases should be investigated by tribal law enforcement [or] when they should be investigated by county law enforcement," said Kaul.

It's why the indigenous community is calling out for more.

"A large piece of our work has been the advocacy part and helping to reduce the invisibility of this epidemic," said Goodrich.

To continue the fight against this complex and serious problem, Wisconsin has created a task force.

"We're going to focus on data collection issues. We're going to look at some of the root causes of this issue. We're also going to look at jurisdictional challenges, and how that complicates enforcement," said Kaul.

Law enforcement, tribal leaders, victim advocates, among others will collaborate for one year to find solutions to this problem.

"It's my hope though that this is just the beginning of an on-going and longer effort," said Kaul. "And whether that is through additional task force efforts or legislation or whatever other form it takes, remains to be seen, but the goal is to jumpstart this discussion."

A discussion that weighs heavy on the hearts of many.

"They go missing twice," said Goodrich. "First, they're missing to family members and families are seeking out working with local police and investigators and search for their lost loved ones. But, they're also missing in the media."

For that reason, Wisconsin officials are proud to be making this historic move.

"To help build those bridges so that there is better communication and people are more comfortable coming forward with information about the crimes," said Kaul.

The task force is expected to start meeting in August.

Minnesota also created a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force in 2019.

CeCe Gaines

Multimedia Journalist

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