Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, is proud of the pace at which her state has moved to address the harrowing crisis facing Indigenous people. Twenty years ago, when she worked as a community advocate, it was as though Indigenous people who went missing or faced violence were invisible, easily forgotten.

In the past four years, the state has turned new attention and resources toward the astounding rates at which its Indigenous people, particularly women and girls, go missing, face violence and are murdered. Attention from the legislature culminated with the creation of a first-in-the-nation office focused on the issue in 2021.

Less than two years since it began operating, the office, led by a Native woman, Juliet Rudie, is a key liaison for families navigating the complicated law enforcement system, and pushing for clear data to make sure victims aren’t invisible. It is also working to reshape the landscape that has allowed cases to fall through the cracks, including forging new training standards for Minnesota police officers. Every agency in the state has a tribal liaison.

Asked what accelerated the state’s attention to the issue, Flanagan was quick to respond: “Native women are now serving in office,” she said. “Native women are in decision-making roles and roles of authority.”

During Flanagan’s first year in the lieutenant governor’s office, state lawmakers created a task force with bipartisan support that would spend a year studying the crisis facing Indigenous people in Minnesota. What they delivered was a 163-page report that crystallized how the challenges facing Indigenous communities, like poverty and marginalization, make women and LGBTQ+ people vulnerable to violence, and how racism and lack of coordinated resources thwart justice and healing for victims.

It also provided a startling picture of the problem: While Indigenous women and girls make up just 1 percent of Minnesota’s population, they made up 8 percent of all murdered and missing women and girls in the state between 2010 and 2018.

Read the full article about crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women by Mel Leonor Barclay at The 19th.