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Department of Interior - Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Unit
Department Of Interior Press Release on New Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples' Unit
“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous peoples crisis is centuries in the making and will take a focused effort and time to unravel the many threads that contribute to the alarming rates of these cases. But I believe we are at an inflection point. We have a President and a government that is prioritizing this. And we can’t turn back."
—Secretary Deb Haaland
At the Department of the Interior, we believe that everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, but American Indian and Alaska Native people are at a disproportionate risk of experiencing violence, murder, or going missing. For too long, the crisis has been overlooked and underfunded.
Secretary Deb Haaland led the effort to pass the Not Invisible Act and co-led the passage of Savannah's Act here during her time in Congress. Together, these proposals take steps to address the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples epidemic by identifying gaps in information sharing and data collection and empowering Interior to draw on the experience and expertise of those on the frontlines of this crisis.
Under Secretary Haaland’s leadership, Interior is committed to working with Tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, survivors, families of the missing, and all communities impacted to coordinate interagency collaboration to address this crisis.
Within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, Secretary Haaland created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to pursue justice for missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The unit will provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
We are putting the full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases and marshalling law enforcement resources across federal agencies and throughout Indian country. We are also expanding collaborative efforts with other agencies, such as working to enhance the DOJ’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, and developing strategic partnerships with additional stakeholders such as the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Units, the FBI Forensic Laboratory, the U.S. Marshals Missing Child Unit, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Secretary Haaland is implementing the Not Invisible Act, including establishing a Joint Commission led by the Departments of the Interior and Justice on reducing violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Commission must be composed of at least 27 federal and non-federal members who represent diverse experiences, backgrounds, and geography, and who are able to provide balanced points of view with regard to the duties of the Commission. The Commission will hold hearings, take testimony, and receive evidence in order to develop recommendations for the federal government to combat violent crime against Indians and within Indian lands.
President Biden signed a proclamation declaring May 5, 2021, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day with a commitment to working with Tribal Nations to address the disproportionately high number of missing or murdered Indigenous people, increase coordination to investigate and resolve these cases and ensure accountability, and address the underlying causes behind those numbers, including — among others — sexual violence, human trafficking, domestic violence, violent crime, systemic racism, economic disparities, and substance use and addiction.
We are committed to providing the leadership needed to hold perpetrators accountable, keep American Indian and Alaska Native communities safe, and provide closure for families.
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