MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Calling it “long overdue,” Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force with a ceremonial bill signing Thursday.

The MMIW Task Force, which was established with bipartisan support, brings together advocates, tribal representatives, law enforcement, and elected officials in their commitment to end violence against indigenous women.

“Native women and girls are subject to violent crime at alarmingly high rates, and we’re taking action to end this disproportionate epidemic,” Walz said. “That’s why we established a task force to examine the root causes of this violence, collect better data, and provide support to Native families who are caught up in this nightmare.”

Of the nearly 6,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, only 116 were logged in the Department of Justice’s database.

“This task force will rely on the experiences of survivors and families as it works towards identifying effective strategies grounded in community,” Flanagan said. “We are witnessing increased awareness around this issue across Minnesota and the country, due to the courage and resilience of Native women who are telling their stories and those of the women we have lost but not forgotten. This task force is long overdue.”

The task force consists of 27 members and their primary duties are as follows: advise the Commissioner of Public Safety to serve as a liaison between the Commissioner of Public Safety, agencies, and organizations that provide legal, social, or other community services; and report recommendations to the Legislature on how to reduce and end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Minnesota.

The law requires the task force to provide the report by Dec. 15, 2020.