DULUTH — A fund created to help local law enforcement solve crimes against Indigenous people — inspired in part by the ongoing investigation into a local woman's disappearance six years ago — was announced Tuesday at a City Hall news conference here.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit People Reward Fund is referred to as Gaagige-Mikwendaagoziwag, which is Ojibwe for "You will be remembered."
"This Indigenous-led and grass-roots fund has been established to fill a really important gap," said Alicia Kozlowski, Duluth's community relations officer. "To help us address injustices; in allowing law enforcement agencies to solve these violent crimes against women, girls and two-spirited people; to bring justice and promote healing in our region."
Coming forward with information about crimes can be scary, Mayor Emily Larson said, but a monetary reward shows the value of new tips.
Going into the news conference, the fund, developed by the Native Lives Matter Coalition, Mending the Sacred Hoop and the city of Duluth, had reached $3,500, with donations from an anonymous source, a local business and more. Larson said the city was tacking on $2,500.
"This is the first fund in the state of Minnesota," Larson said. "We are blazing new ground."
Representatives of the fund's organizational groups alternately carried a red shawl, meant to bring awareness to violence against Indigenous people, or a photograph of Sheila St. Clair, who was last seen in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood in mid-August 2015.
The investigation into St. Clair's disappearance remains active, Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said Tuesday. He acknowledged a handful of local law enforcement officials who continue to follow leads.
With the fund, Tusken said he hopes new information emerges.
"It may give us the missing piece," he said, "that missing link."
This isn't just an Indigenous issue, Kozlowski said; it's a human issue.
"When any of us are dehumanized, we are all dehumanized," she said. "We don't want to be invisible anymore."