Pat, who is going on 107 years old, says she was surprised that her difficulty breathing was caused by a heart problem, not her lungs.
This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein, who is Dakota, and hear about legislation she introduced to create a task force to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Here’s Cole Premo.
INTROS: This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein, who is Dakota, and hear about legislation she introduced to create a task force to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Here’s Cole Premo.
[VARIOUS NEWS REPORTS]
As awareness of this issue affecting native women and girls continues to grow, so does the support seen in the United States government, particularly here in Minnesota.
The issue is missing and murdered indigenous women. And a new report is calling it a nationwide crisis.
The report, which was released in late-2018, is from the Urban Indian Health Institute, a Seattle-based tribal epidemiology center.
Some of the staggering figures it highlights is that numbers show murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women.
There were over 5,700 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, but only 116 of them were logged into the Department of Justice database.
In addition to the shocking high numbers of Native women missing or murdered… The study also uncovered great difficulties in accessing data on this type of crime. The UIHI says many records were not provided in a timely manner and law enforcement agencies sometimes provided confusing or incomplete records. Others charged fees the institute did not have the budget to cover.
That means the 506 unique cases it found in its data collection from 71 cities nationwide likely underrepresents the actual figures. And race is often not registered in state crime databases, or it’s misclassified.
Adding to the problem is that many of these stories are not being told in news coverage, the report says only 5 percent of the cases were covered by national or international media.
So, in addition to raising public awareness of the issue, the report makes a plea for fe deral law enforcement to track and report data. And for native people’s voices to be heard.
MARY: [07:52] “it's also very important that the rest of Minnesota and the rest of the country in fact hear these stories ... it's a part of Minnesota and our national history that folks really don't know and don't understand. And it's those personal stories that are going to illustrate the tragedy and the necessity to look at ways to, um, to overcome this whole tragedy of, of what is missing and murdered women.”
That brings us to Minnesota state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein. She represents District 41B, which includes Columbia Heights, St. Anthony Village and parts of New Brighton. She’s also Dakota and has a personal tie to this issue.
MARY: [07:27] “when I started this, this talking about this task force and people would contact me, mostly women and they tell me their stories and their stories are so heartbreaking and they're generational stories. You know, my grandma, my great grandma, my aunt, my sister, um, and it's really what fuels my fire to do this kind of legislation.”
The task force Kunesh-Podein mentions is a bill she has introduced to the Minnesota legislature. It creates a task force committee that will consist of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
MARY: [13:26] That's part of the task force is to listen to the stories, to listen to what's happening and have an understanding of, of this historical trauma. [13:55] Yeah. And so that's, that's what the listening sessions will be about.
It’s part of a drive, nationwide, to get lawmakers to hear native stories, and native solutions. And it has growing support, including the Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, who is the first Native American woman to serve the position in Minnesota.
MARY: [18:11] I know both she and governor walls mentioned it on their campaign, um, their campaign trail called it out and said how important it is that we study the violations against our indigenous communities. Uh, I know that both of them have personally told me that they support this bill. I will be meeting with the governor, a liaison from the governor later on today to discuss this bill. And so we're, we're very, very optimistic.
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein hopes to have the senate approve the bill and the bill signed by Feb. 14th, which is the day of the missing and murdered indigenous women's march in Minneapolis.
By the way, there’s much more information in the Urban Indian Health Institute’s study. I only scratched the surface. The study is called “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls, A Snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United States.
I’m Cole Premo
Brian Beatty is a Minneapolis poet, who’s work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. He’s also hosted a literary podcast for mnartists.org and has been featured in several public arts projects.