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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women billboard goes up in Appleton

Organizers say none of the public officials they invited attended Saturday’s ceremony
Updated: Jun. 12, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Dozens honored missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people under the sun Saturday morning.

“There is not one single indigenous woman, girl, in my life that I do not know that has not been raped, molested, or trafficked,” Kristin Welch, founder and executive director of Waking Women Healing Institute, said.

The group was there for the reveal of a billboard. It can be seen driving along W College Ave in Appleton near the intersection of S Lynndale Dr.

“We know that Wisconsin is up there when it comes to human trafficking,” Welch told the crowd. “Appleton is one of those hot spots. The Fox Cities is one of those hot spots. It travels down to Milwaukee and Madison into Chicago and goes across to our neighbors in Minnesota.”

According to the Human Trafficking Institute, Wisconsin ranked sixth among states in 2019 for the number of new criminal human trafficking cases and tenth for active investigations.

As we’ve been following, the Wisconsin Department of Justice began a task force last year aimed at solving this problem.

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One of its findings so far is the lack of data tracking cases involving indigenous women.

Andrea Lemke-Rochon shared the story of her cousin who went missing on the Menominee Indian Reservation in 1986.

“If we don’t realize that we are all in this together, we will self-destruct,” Lemke-Rochon said.

Rae Elaine Tourtillott’s body was found six months later.

“It will be 35 years this October and our family still has no answers, no arrests, no prosecution,” she said.

Organizers on Saturday also pointed out how no official that they invited was in attendance.

“We invited I think about 25 different leaders in this community, police chiefs and mayors. Is there anyone here who is an elected official? No,” Bill Van Lopik, a community organizer with Esther, said.

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