Today, advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous women gathered on the steps of the State Capitol, to share stories about personal experiences and shine a light on abduction, homicide, violence and trafficking of Indigenous women in Wisconsin.
The event was organized by the Wisconsin Women’s Council; the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force; and the state advocacy organization Maeqtekuahkihkiw Metaemohsak, Inc., Woodland Women. Together they shared the stories of those affected by the ongoing crisis of violence against Indigenous people.
Rachel Fernandez is an organizer, a Menominee Indian Tribal Legislator, and a member of the Women’s Council. She is also a co-chair on the data subcommittee of Wisconsin’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force created by Attorney General Josh Kaul in 2020. She called upon the local community to witness and acknowledge the testimony of survivors.
“I would really like leaders out there, across Indian Country, across the state, across the nation, to really look at our survivors, our families of missing and murdered, and to really listen to the stories they have. They’re stories that need to be told, that haven’t been said yet, and in those stories you are going to hear the solution to what we need,” she said.
Rachel also talked about what justice means to herself and others in the community:
“I listened to an elder earlier when we were wrapping up and she said just imagine all the other stories that haven’t been told […] we have so many out there that need to be told, because in that healing we’re healing not only ourselves, we’re healing our ancestors who never had that chance because of genocide, the violence, the oppression, the assimilation that was put upon us […] so having gatherings like this, where our survivors and families are centered, where their voices are validated and lifted, brings a different kind of justice. We don’t hardly ever get that judicially, but being in spaces where healing can occur–that’s another form of justice for us,” she said.
Rachel also discussed the future of her work with the task force:
“My hope is to have a permanent office for us, have something permanent not just a task force that’s happening now and it ended. That’s not acceptable to me. The momentum is here, the power and strength of our people are here, and we have to keep going, we have to keep fighting. So that’s what I’d like to see, is that [work] continued after the report is done,” she said.
A 2018 report from the Urban Indian Health Institute, a national advocacy organization, found more than 500 cases of missing Indigenous women and girls.