May 3, 2024 | By: Sammy Holladay

Mille Lacs Band Speaks Out Against Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Epidemic

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) is an epidemic of violence experienced by Indigenous people for generations. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe hosted a program Thursday to help bring awareness to MMIR.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, from 2010 to 2018, 8% of all murdered women and girls in Minnesota were Indigenous. Despite making up just 1% of the state’s population, according to the National Institute of Justice, 84.3% of indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetime, and 56.1% have experienced sexual violence. Just one case of violence is too much, which is why events like the MMIR program held Thursday in Onamia are of the utmost importance.

“They’re important because it not only raises awareness, but it brings people together,” explained Nicole Anderson, the Mille Lacs Band’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services. “And sometimes people are just coming for the food or a T-shirt, but they hear a powerful message that they leave with and they remember, and they talk about that with their friends and their families. And that’s really how we raise awareness.”

It’s a difficult subject to talk about, but awareness and education on this epidemic are key to understanding why there is such a disparity among the Native population.

“[The] education piece is very important,” said Mille Lacs District II Representative Wendy Merrill. “If we look at our school system, bringing awareness to just our school, starting from there, we need to look at our runaways. Are they really runaways? Are they missing or, you know, just bringing awareness to kind of the general public in regards to education and why the statistics are so higher for Native women versus everybody else.”

MMIR license plates are available in Minnesota. The fees for these plates will fund tips and reward cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people. More and more license plates will only bring more awareness to the issue once people see them more often on the road.

Other tribes also have plates to raise awareness, and Mille Lacs Band leaders have been working hard to develop their license plates for MMIR awareness.

“I think it’s great. I love the fact that the state is doing the plate,” added Merrill. “There are other tribes that do the plates as well. Like, you look at Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, and I believe White Earth and Red Lake are starting to do the plates. But just to bring that connection to the reservation in regards to our own plates, I think that’s just important to me and I know it’s important to a lot of people within the community.”

Seeing the amount of support today was encouraging and heartwarming, but even more so was seeing the youth get involved and help set the example for the next generation.

“It’s one of the most important things, right? So when we look at what our youth can do and what we’re supposed to be doing for our youth, we can train them right now to watch out for it,” said Mille Lacs Chief Executive-Elect Virgil Wind. “There’s also prevention that we don’t talk a lot [about]. You know, it’s a different world out there. There’s enough people to listen now and having that comfort amongst our youth, men and women, to be able to speak out against what’s really going on, I think is important. I mean, without it, we’re never going to fix it.”

This Sunday, May 5 marks the official day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Awareness. MMIW218 will host its annual walk/run event along with a full day of activities in Bemidji. That event is free to attend but requires registration here.

Lakeland News is member supported content, please consider supporting Lakeland PBS today.

Support the Businesses That Support Lakeland PBS

Related News