This issue is full of stories that leave us angry and sad — stories that need to be told.
How has the present international crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) developed from centuries of colonization, racism, violence, misogyny, and sexual objectification?
How have systems that are ostensibly designed to help instead contributed to injustice?
How are women leading the way forward in exposing the issue and fostering healing?
As we prepared this issue, our guidance came from the 2020 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force report to the Minnesota legislature, released in December, which explores the factors and root causes that perpetuate the crisis in Minnesota. Several members of that Task Force helped us direct our coverage. Special thanks to Nicole MartinRogers for her insights during the planning stages.
In the following pages you will find stories on the historical roots of the crisis, a look at how data gathering is both necessary and challenging, and storytelling from survivors and those providing healing spaces.
A note on terms: The Task Force used MMIW as its acronym. Minnesota Women’s Press refers to MMIR, in order to acknowledge two-spirit (LGBTQ+) people who are affected by the crisis. We use the term Indigenous, except when quoting government data or individuals.
Many of the stories in these pages include traumatic material. Please read with caution and care.
For a year, as a freelance writer, I worked on developing online stories about Minnesota’s sex trafficking industry. To this day, I am haunted by a series of photos of a young woman, arrested in the days when young victims were arrested for being trafficked to buyers. This woman is pictured in a series of mug shots, first a fresh-faced teen, smiling and looking sassy at the camera. Gradually, mug shot after mug shot, you see the wear, the bruises, the look in her eyes. She is a young woman who has been trapped in a life not of her own making.
The MMIR crisis is much more than women becoming victims to the trafficking trade. It is about the propensity for gender-based violence that goes unchecked. It is about society allowing some people to consider other people less than human. It is about looking the other way, not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do. This reporting of the MMIR crisis — thanks in part to a Minneapolis Foundation grant — is one step in helping us correct that complacency.
Art of Living — Photography by Ne-Dah-Ness Rose Greene
Greater Minnesota — Sheila Lamb: The View From Cloquet
Legacy — Chris Stark: Roots of the Crisis
Perspective — Jeanine Jackson: Harm Reduction
BookShelf — Halee Kirkwood: A Sense of Belonging
Health — Generational Healing, With Marisa Cummings
News Bites — updated weekly