PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIW/P) Task Force held its first meeting of the new year Wednesday.

The Task Force was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2021, in an effort to respond to the high numbers of Indigenous people who have continued to go missing in the state’s tribal and urban communities.

“The rates of violence against Indigenous women and people are unacceptable. Our work to address this problem must reflect the needs and values of Indigenous communities,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated. “This task force is an important step forward in achieving justice for people who have experienced violence. It reaffirms our office’s commitment to racial equity, social justice and strengthening our government-to-government relationship with Washington’s tribal nations.”

The 21-member task force, which held its first meeting in December of 2021, met virtually Wednesday to review meeting minutes and bylaws, confirm the task force timeline, determine and assign subcommittees and elect co-chairs.

During the meeting, the task force confirmed the focus for the following subcommittees — which will work prospectively to address the many layers involved in the complex crisis of MMIW/P.

Tribes

According to the meeting, this subcommittee will focus on bringing in tribal voices to address their specific concerns, strengthening the relationship between tribes and urban indigenous communities, as well as networking with Native communities from bordering states and Canada.

Data and Research

In the session, this group was assigned the responsibility of collecting, assessing and sharing data on MMIW/P, along with hiring outside research teams and developing reports to gain a better understanding of the scope of the crisis.

MMIWP Families

This subcommittee has been tasked with engaging with the family members of MMIW/P and ensuring they feel supported as they partner with the task force and provide testimony.

Community Services and Resources

According to the public meeting, this subcommittee will work will survivors, victims and vulnerable groups to determine what resources are needed and assess any gaps in support.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

This team will be responsible for partnering with law enforcement and training them to recognize signs of MMIW/P cases. According to the session, this subcommittee will also work to analyze data, current laws and cold cases.

Moving forward, the Task Force will dive into the systemic causes which have led to the high rate of Indigenous people who have disappeared or been murdered in Washington.

The group will produce two reports containing its findings to Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature in August 2022 and June 2023.

The subcommittees are slated to meet at least once a month. The next full Task Force meeting is set for March of 2022.

The Task Force encourages anyone who has a missing relative or knows a potential victim of an unresolved homicide to share flyers and information with mmiwp@atg.wa.gov.