Here’s how one MN lawmaker is bringing indigenous women into the gendered violence conversation

In Minnesota, the intersection of gender and race can be a death sentence for you and your loved ones. What’s more is that there isn’t nearly the amount of data needed to get a good grasp on the problem.

That’s why Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein is proposing a bill to create a governor’s task force to study violence against Native American women.

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

If passed, the committee would start its work in 2019. The estimated cost is $79,000 for the first year and $70,000 for subsequent years.

On behalf of the bill and representing the Minnesota Red Lake band of the Chippewa, Mysti Babineau testified last week in front of the Minnesota legislature. She spoke to her experiences as a sexual assault survivor and as a witness to her grandmother’s brutal murder.

“My community deserves healing,” Babineau told the House. “I deserve healing,”

From 1990 to 2016, Native American women in Minnesota have been murdered seven times as much as their white counterparts, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Liz Richards, the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, affirmed this. More often than not, race isn’t confirmed in criminal cases, Richard said. And often, race isn’t registered in crime data.

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The lack of data on violence against indigenous people leaves a lot of questions unanswered // Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

Earlier this year, the coalition’s annual domestic violence report  revealed 24 people had died from domestic violence in Minnesota in 2017. Kunesh-Podein, a member of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe and one of four indigenous lawmakers in the state, brought Native American women into the conversation. This got the ball rolling for her proposal of an annual report on violence against Native Americans.

With support from both sides of aisle, Minnesota’s legislature voted to include the bill in an upcoming omnibus bill on public safety. Moving forward, the work of this task can put anecdotes and lived experiences in context — getting us one step closer to reducing disproportionate violence against indigenous women.

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