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Minnesota’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office unveiled a new logo Tuesday and discussed its progress two years into its founding as the first office of its kind in the nation.
The announcement came days ahead of a rally planned for Friday in St. Paul for National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“I spent the first year visiting the community, the tribal nations, and getting out there and bringing awareness,” the office’s director, Juliet Rudie, said at a virtual news conference Tuesday. “I also worked with families that had questions about missing and murdered Indigenous relatives and also tried to build relationships with tribal leadership, victim service providers, law enforcement agencies, and crime stoppers.”
The office is part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and was created to primarily prevent violence against Indigenous women and children, and to address the disparities in missing and murdered people.
According to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office, Indigenous people made up nine percent of murdered girls and women in Minnesota between 2010 and 2019, despite making up one percent of the state’s total population. In 2022, there were 721 reports for missing Indigenous men and women in the state.
The office works with families who have missing or murdered loved ones and also connects them with victim service professionals. The office has also developed training for law enforcement on the state’s missing persons’ act, known as Brandon’s Law, and for anti-bias policing with a focus on Indigenous people.
For Rudie, who is a tribal member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community, the work is personal. Her cousin’s son has been missing in Minnesota since 2017.
“There is no closure for her until she finds her son,” Rudie said. “I have that perspective coming from my own relative, and I hear the stories when I go out and I visit the tribal communities about missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. It’s really important for me to try to have an impact on this epidemic.”
The office plans to unveil its new logo to the general public Friday on National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The logo was created by Big Spirit, an Indigenous-led marketing firm in Minneapolis.
The logo consists of an Indigenous person’s face in profile against a red sun with a red handprint covering their mouth. The handprint is meant to symbolize the lost voices of missing and murdered individuals and the historical silencing of Indigenous people, Rudie said.
“The indigenous person that lies on top of the red circle represents the sun, which signifies that it is a new day, a new beginning, and hope for a better and brighter future without violence, poverty, racism, and injustice,” she added.
The state created the office after a task force released a report on murdered and missing Indigenous women in 2020. Based on the task force’s recommendations, Rudie said she’s hired three other employees, including an intelligence specialist who will be analyzing public data on missing and murdered people to identify patterns. Eventually, Rudie said, she hopes the office can include this data analysis in a public dashboard with the latest information on cases. She said it will likely take a couple of years.
“Change takes time,” Rudie said. “We’ve been finding that the data is in silos. So, trying to gather that has been part of the challenge. And we’re up for that challenge.”
The office has an annual budget of $500,000, according to the state Department of Public Safety. There are currently four staffers in the office: a director, community planner, violence prevention coordinator, and an intelligence specialist.
Rudie has requested funding in the next budget to hire a victim specialist that can help advocate for victims and refer them to programs and resources. She also hopes to hire a case review coordinator. She added that they’re currently developing a policy on defining the case review process in the office, a procedure that the office is required to conduct under state law.
People who want to get involved in related advocacy work should learn more about the issue, how the office is serving the community, and find ways to support local advocates and agencies that serve victims of domestic abuse, Rudie said.
She also noted that the office’s event this Friday in St. Paul supporting missing and murdered Indigenous people and their relatives is a good starting point. Other groups are hosting separate events in Bemidji and Duluth.
“It’s has to be a community restorative justice process,” Rudie said. “We all need to do more. I need to do more, we need to do more in our Indigenous communities, and the Minnesota community needs to do more to have an impact.”
Minnesota events for National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls:
- What: Event and walk for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office. Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, Senator Mary Kunesh, and families of murdered and missing Indigenous people are scheduled to speak at the event, which will also feature prayer, dance, music, and food.
- Where: Minnesota State Capitol grounds, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
- When: 12 p.m., Friday, May 5
- For more information: Visit the website here.
- What: MMIW 218 Walk/Run. A group of advocates is hosting a run and walk in Bemidji.
- Where: Start at Subway parking lot at 120 Paul Bunyan Drive South (walk/run ends at Paul Bunyan Park), Bemidji, Minnesota
- When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, May 5
- For more information: Visit the Facebook event page at MMIW 218.
- What: Rally and march
- Where: Duluth City Hall, 411 W. 1st St, Duluth, Minnesota 55802
- When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 5
- For more information: Visit the event page here.