TOPPENISH, Wash. - The Washington State Office of Attorney General has launched the new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force.
Washington joins only a few other states in the nation that have a similar task force. It was created to make systemic change surrounding the disappearance and killing of Indigenous people in Washington.
Yakama Nation joined the task force for its first meeting on Thursday. It was held at the Yakama Legends Casino Events Center in Toppenish. The meeting opened up with comment from tribe members, pleading for help finding their missing loved ones and calling for justice for those who were murdered.
"Our hearts are heavy," said one woman who spoke in her Native language. "We want something done here. Not just today, but every day forward."
"They’re at the center of this crisis. They are the ones experiencing the hurt, the pain. They are the ones looking for answers, and quite frankly, they are the ones who have been doing the work before we started organizing this task force," said Annie Forsman-Adams, policy analyst for the task force.
More than 50 Indigenous people in Washington have been reported missing in 2021. However, the attorney general’s office said there is likely many other cases that have not been reported. The task force is one step towards addressing the violence against Indigenous people and why so many cases aren’t heard.
"I think there are a lot of really complex challenges. And a lot of things around criminal jurisdiction and jurisdiction in general, the way that the systems communicate with each other—particularly across state lines and in between jurisdictions. And just access to resources and access to the responses that they need to feel heard and feel safe," said Forsman-Adams.
Loved ones of Mary Johnson Davis spoke during the meeting. They said Mary was last seen Nove. 24, 2020 in Tulalip. She was reported missing on December 9, 2020. Loved ones became emotional while mentioning they are approaching the one-year mark since the missing person reported was filed.
"They have broken hearts. We miss our loved one and want her home and safe and sound," sobbed one woman who knows Mary.
The task force will meet again on Friday to continue discussions. The attorney general’s office is leading the task force. Other members of the group include Washington State Patrol, elected representatives from various cities and districts, members from several tribes and families of missing or murdered Indigenous people.
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