Washington State Office of Attorney General Bob Ferguson
In recognition of the National Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women Day of Remembrance, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that his office will lead a 21-member task force to assess systemic causes behind the high rate of disappearances and murders of Indigenous women.
The task force will include tribes and tribal organizations, as well as policy makers at the local, state and federal level.
“For too long, tribal communities have suffered violence against Indigenous women,” Ferguson said. “This task force is an important step toward achieving justice for victims and families, and bringing these women home.”
The task force will assess current data collection and reporting practices relating to Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), review prosecutorial trends, identify resources to support victim services and make recommendations for increasing training for best practices when working with tribes and tribal communities. The task force will report its findings in two reports to the Governor and Legislature in August 2022 and June 2023.
The Legislature selected the Attorney General’s Office to lead the task force.
“I am honored to join my sisters to fight the crisis of MMIW,” said Representative Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow. “We have a powerful unified voice to work with local, state, federal and tribal governments to build policy, laws and programs that are fully funded and supported by all. We have heard messages from across this great nation stating that we must develop better processes for data collection and management and integrate cultural teachings to better work with and collaborate with survivors, families, tribal nations and all levels of law enforcement. Because even one girl missing is too many, and we must all heal together.”
“This work is urgent,” said Senator Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond. “Washingtonians are not truly aware of the number of Indigenous women who are missing and murdered. We need answers, we need good data and we need thorough investigations that can point the way toward solutions to prevent these crimes. It’s important that the state put in place systems to track these cases to bring justice and to help families and communities heal. That’s what the Attorney General’s Office is empowered to do. This is a crucial step to make our society more responsive to the needs of victims and families.”
The task force will build on legislation passed in 2018 and 2019 to improve data collection related to MMIW and hire two MMIW liaisons in the Washington State Patrol.
Beginning in October 2019, Attorney General Ferguson began convening federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement to discuss how to address the human rights crisis of MMIW. The task force will build on these conversations.
Washington state is home to 29 federally recognized tribes.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.