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New Minnesota license plate will help fund rewards for info on missing and murdered Indigenous people

Thousands march in Minnesota for missing and murdered Indigenous people
Thousands march in Minnesota for missing and murdered Indigenous people 02:29

MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands are marching the streets of Minneapolis on Wednesday to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people. 

Participants first rallied at the East Phillips Community Center before the March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR).

RELATED: Native Americans disproportionately go missing, data show - and federal authorities are the ones who investigate

Nicole Matthews, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women Sexual Assault Coalition, says events like this are helping bring more attention to the crisis, and she feels they're making ground.

"We have staff now that can address this, so we have people that can make sure that they're connecting with the families. That they're pushing on systems to respond. That they're tracking the data, they're looking at the numbers, they're looking the cases, maybe the cold cases," Matthews said. "We've seen more attention to this issue, we see more systems responding to this issue, we see more people that are showing up."  

At Wednesday morning's rally, Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, debuted Minnesota's new MMIR license plate. Proceeds from each $25 plate sold will go into the state's MMIR reward fund that was created last legislative session. They are now available for purchase.

Minnesota lawmakers approved the creation of the state's Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives in 2021. A 2020 report by a state task force found that while Indigenous people account for about 1% of Minnesota's population, they accounted for 8%-9% of all of the state's murdered girls and women in the last decade.

"Generations of Indigenous communities have lost loved ones through violence at higher rates than any other population,"  Kunesh said. "The historic and ongoing violence contributes to barriers to education, employment, housing security, healthcare, and cultural support, and these forces have left Native relatives vulnerable to violence for too long. We must continue to organize and take action against racism, colonialism, and misogyny, and make amends for the history of genocidal state policies like Indian boarding schools and forced family separations."

RELATED: Families continue tireless search efforts for missing Native American teens Nevaeh Kingbird, Jeremy Jourdain

The report also found that on any given month, 27 to 57 Indigenous girls and women are missing in Minnesota.

Indigenous people are also reported missing at higher rates than other ethnic groups in the U.S. The National Crime Information Center says in 2020 alone, at least 9,575 Indigenous people were reported missing.  

According to a 2022 study by the Congressional Research Service, more than 82% of Indigenous people polled said they had been victims of violence at some point in their lives.

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