ST. PAUL-She was the last woman to bring her personal story before the House public safety committee Wednesday - a story she said she never uttered in public before.
Mysti Babineau, of St. Paul, spoke of how she was put into foster care, raped at the age of 9, forced to witness her grandmother getting stabbed to death as a young teen, and kidnapped and raped again at the age of 20.
"My community deserves healing. I deserve healing," said Babineau, testifying as a member of the Minnesota Red Lake Band of Chippewa in favor of a bill to create a task force to address Minnesota's missing and murdered indigenous women.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton, said it was unfathomable that while Native American women make up roughly 1 percent of Minnesota's population, the percentage of them killed in domestic violence incidents is many times that.
Liz Richards, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, admitted that data on the subject is difficult to confirm, given that race is often not registered in state crime statistics.
But the data that is confirmable still paints a grim picture: Based on her organization's review of the 81 domestic violence-related homicides reported to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension between 2013 and 2016, seven of the victims were confirmed to be Native American.
That's 9 percent of victims - and Richards stressed the percentage could have been higher. For many of the cases, the race of the victim was not determined.
Babineau wasn't the only woman to testify before the committee Wednesday. Eileen Hudson, of the Ogitchidakwe Council, spoke about her daughter going missing in 1996.
After finding her daughter's body in an Illinois grave - listed as a white woman with a different date of birth and name - Hudson had to go through an extensive legal process to bring the body home for a proper burial in 2008.
"You're here on our home lot. You are here as guests. ... Please work with us, because we are human beings as well," Hudson told the committee.
A primary concern is the mishmash of jurisdictions when it comes to crime on tribal lands: with tribal authorities having limited prosecutorial abilities once suspects leave; local non-tribal police having the same restrictions when it comes to crimes on a reservation; and the FBI handling anything on tribal land at the felony level.
Still, as Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, noted, many crimes against Native Americans take place off tribal lands - and those who spoke before the committee stated repeatedly that they believed they were historically given less attention.
If the bill is passed, the task force would start in 2019 at an estimated cost of $79,000, and continue each year thereafter with an annual cost of $70,000. The bill mandates that in addition to including representatives from numerous law enforcement agencies, the task force must include at least four representatives from tribal governments.
The task force would be required to give an annual report to the Legislature on a variety of topics, from causes of violence to indigenous women and girls, how to track and collect data, and the best ways to help.
The public safety committee voted Wednesday that the bill, which commanded broad bipartisan support, be included in the House's public safety omnibus bill.