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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force Speak on Missing Women

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Missing and Murdered Women Task Force is helping to fight the abduction, homicide, and trafficking of indigenous women. The task force is part of the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Newschannel 7 spoke with the task force as the case of Gabriel Petito grabbed headlines across the country. Some now claim the level of coverage is too much, even suggesting race may be a part of it.

“We do have to realize that tribes don’t get the media attention for those that have gone missing,” says Justine Rufus, co-chair of MMIW.

Rufus says they are working to find missing women you may never heard of.

The task force was put together last year. It began with families seeking justice for their loved ones. The group says there are plenty of issues unique to missing indigenous people.

“We do run into those jurisdiction issues if someone goes missing. It’s who take the case, right. Who’s in charge of the case. And sometimes they’ll allow the tribes to take the lead. And other times, it might be the county that would take the lead on that,” said Rufus.

She says many issues like jurisdiction and differences in laws play a part in the hindered search for missing indigenous women. She also says Native Americans were late to systems that we are accustomed to using.

“We’re now finding out that tribes can access the Amber Alert and that was not always the case for tribes. So we’re kind of behind the times for being able to access tools that folks were able to access for a very long time,” said Rufus.

The 40 member task force consists of 12 members from each tribe.

They’re only on their fourth meeting but hope to implement a procedure that will help the state quickly locate missing indigenous women.

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