WASHINGTON -Today, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (Order), establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (Task Force), which will be co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Attorney General William P. Barr.
“President Trump has brought this issue out of the shadows and into the light -- focusing on public safety, justice and economic strength in previously forgotten American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “At the Department of the Interior, we are committed to upholding our trust responsibilities to Native peoples and advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination."
This Order gives a direction and reaffirms the Administration's priority of addressing the concerns of tribal governments and American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The Task Force, in coordination and consultation with American Indians and Alaska Natives, will develop protocols for new and unsolved cases, establish multi-jurisdictional cold cases teams, and establish greater clarity of roles and responsibilities.
The Task Force will facilitate better coordination and collaboration with tribal communities, resulting in long term strategies to address complex issues. It will take continued efforts and cooperation among all stakeholders to improve response and investigative challenges, and collect and manage data across jurisdictions. Greater clarity on the roles, authorities, and jurisdiction will be helpful for all of those involved with the goal of formal agreements and greater communication between agencies, with communities, and to the public.
Leading this charge with the co-chairs and alongside tribal representatives will be other top officials within the Federal Government, including:
The culmination of the multi-agency Task Force began several months ago with the Department of the Interior’ initiative “Reclaiming Our Native Communities,” which was led by Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney.
“This is a great day for Lady Justice. Over the last year and a half, our partnership with the White House and other federal agencies has helped bring this issue to the forefront,” said Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. “Every step of the way, we have been and continue to be committed to tackling this complex issue.”
On June 11, the initial event for Operation Lady Justice took place on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona. Since then, AS Tara Sweeney has traveled throughout the country -- from Alaska to Washington D.C. -- hosting numerous listening sessions and roundtables intended to support an initiative to reclaim our Native communities by focusing resources on cold cases, violent crimes and missing and murdered Native Americans.
“This is a historic day. President Trump's leadership on this important issue will further empower us to roll up our sleeves to work together and make a difference to native families throughout the country who are still seeking healing and justice,” said Katharine MacGregor, Deputy Chief of Staff exercising the authority of the Deputy Secretary.
On Nov. 22 in Montana, Attorney General Barr announced the Justice Department’s national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative places MMIP coordinators in 11 U.S. Attorney’s offices who will develop protocols for a more coordinated law enforcement response to missing cases. The plan also calls for the deployment of the FBI’s most advanced response capabilities when needed, improved data collection and analysis, and training to support local response efforts.
“American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer from unacceptable and disproportionately high levels of violence, which can have lasting impacts on families and communities. Native American women face particularly high rates of violence, with at least half suffering sexual or intimate-partner violence in their lifetime,” said Attorney General Barr. “Too many of these families have experienced the loss of loved ones who went missing or were murdered. President Trump establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives will enable us to further strengthen the federal, state, and tribal law enforcement response to these continuing problems.”
“We have heard first-hand from tribal leaders and community members impacted by this crisis and are grateful to President Trump for making this a priority. This executive order will help break down silos and address this issue holistically in partnership with Tribal governments and Native communities,” said Commissioner Hovland. “I want to commend those who have been powerful advocates on this issue for never giving up. This task force, which I am proud to join, will carry your voice into action and together we can end the crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People.”
The Task Force will report to President Trump no less than two times a year.
President Trump designated May 5 as Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day to draw attention to the horrible acts of violence committed against American Indian and Alaska Native people, particularly women and children.
President Trump’s proclamation read: “Ending the violence that disproportionately affects American Indian and Alaska Native communities is imperative. Under my Administration, Federal agencies are working more comprehensively and more collaboratively to address violent crime in Indian country, to recover the American Indian and Alaska Native women and children who have gone missing, and to find justice for those who have been murdered.”
American Indian and Alaska Native people face alarming levels of violence. Data from the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, including sexual violence, in their lifetimes. American Indian and Alaska Native children attempt and commit suicide at rates far higher than those in any other demographic in our Nation, and often endure disproportionately high rates of endemic drug abuse, violence, and crime.