AG Kaul announces launch of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force

MADISON -- Attorney General Josh Kaul announced on Thursday, July 2 the launch of a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force to help fight the abduction, homicide, violence and trafficking of Indigenous women in Wisconsin.

“Effectively addressing the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Wisconsin will require law enforcement, tribal leaders, victim advocates, and others to work collaboratively to collect data and identify solutions,” said Kaul. “The creation of this task force is an important step in the effort to combat this complex and serious problem.”

In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Indigenous communities, the task force plans to examine the factors that contribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), focusing on understanding the roles federal, state and tribal jurisdictions play, and how to improve and implement robust data collection and reporting methods.

“Addressing the MMIW crisis requires acknowledging that the crisis exists, understanding the deep and intricate roots underlying the crisis, providing justice to the missing and murdered and to protecting Native women and girls,” said Shannon Holsey, president of both the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. "As a tribal leader, I look forward to our continued bipartisan engagement to identify meaningful actions that Attorney General Kaul, tribes and task force can take to turn the tide on this tragic situation.”

According to the DOJ, violence against Native women and girls is an under-reported problem throughout the U.S., and cases are often misclassified or there is confusion about jurisdiction. Accurate data protocols are needed to improve data collection and tracking information.

“The problem of violence against women and children and the disproportionate impact on Native women and communities is the responsibility of all of society to address," said Kristin Welch, Menikanaehkem Women’s Leadership Cohort-MMIW Coordinator. "For meaningful long-term reform, we must look to solutions that are Indigenous-led while addressing both historical acts of violence against Indigenous women as well as those that still exist today within modern institutions."

This year, 2019 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 548/Senate Bill 493 did not pass the legislature before the end of the regular floor period. Authored by Representatives Amanda Stuck and Jeffrey Mursau, and Senators Janet Bewley and Jeff Smith, the bill would have supported the creation of an MMIW task force to probe the core causes of missing and murdered indigenous women. Now that the legislative session has ended, AG Kaul agreed with tribal leaders that this issue is too important to wait until the next legislative session to take action.

Additional information, including the composition of the task force will be forthcoming.