Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Not Invisible Act Commission, a cross jurisdictional advisory committee composed of law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and survivors, today transmitted its congressionally mandated recommendations to the Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and U.S. Congress. Federal responses to the Commission’s recommendations are due within 90 calendar days.
The Commission was created by the Not Invisible Act, led by the Secretary during her time in Congress. Its mandate was to develop recommendations on actions the federal government can take on six focused topics to help combat violent crime against Indigenous people and within Indian lands, and to address the epidemic of missing persons, murder and trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, as specified under the law.
“I am so grateful to the members of the Not Invisible Act Commission for the time and effort they have given to this work and this report over the past two years. Indian Country will be safer, and lives will be saved, because of this Commission’s work,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. Crimes against Indigenous peoples have long been underfunded and ignored, rooted in the deep history of intergenerational trauma that has affected our communities since colonization. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations, which will help us continue to galvanize attention and resources toward these tragic epidemics.”
“These recommendations will play an important role in our shared work to address the violence Tribal communities face,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am grateful to the Commissioners for approaching this critical and difficult work with the urgency and thoughtfulness it deserves. The Justice Department is committed to working with the Department of Interior, Congress, and our state, local, and Tribal partners to address the Commission’s recommendations and respond to the public safety challenges facing American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
The Departments will carefully consider the NIAC’s recommendations, which will help further the Biden-Harris administration’s work to advance and invest in public safety in Indian Country.
At the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Biden signed Executive Order 14053 on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People directing the Departments of the Interior, Justice and Health and Human Services to work with Tribal Nations and partners to build safe and healthy Tribal communities and to support comprehensive law enforcement, prevention, intervention and support services. Last year, the President signed the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 into law, which built on advancements from previous reauthorizations and included new provisions to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples across the country and re-enforced Tribal sovereignty by providing means for Tribes to address the epidemic of violence within their lands and communities.
At the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced an agreement to provide for the effective and efficient administration of criminal investigations in Indian Country. The agreement specified that the BIA Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) and the FBI would cooperate on investigations and share information and investigative reports as well as establish written guidelines outlining jurisdiction and investigative roles and responsibilities. The agreement also requires that all BIA, FBI and Tribal law enforcement officers receive training regarding trauma-informed, culturally responsive investigative approaches.
Secretary Haaland has traveled throughout the nation and internationally to highlight the need for coordination and collaboration on issues related to violence against Indigenous peoples. Within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, Secretary Haaland created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the BIA-OJS, which is providing leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered Indigenous peoples. The Not Invisible Act Commission’s recommendations will inform the Department’s efforts to evolve the MMU to address gaps within law enforcement agencies and across the federal government.
Last week, Attorney General Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta met with the Tribal Nations Leadership Council, including a Council member who serves as a Commissioner on the Not Invisible Act Commission, and discussed a range of pressing issues impacting American Indian and Alaska Native people. Attorney General Garland traveled to Alaska in August, during which he visited Anchorage and the Village of Galena. Attorney General Garland met with Tribal leaders and advocates to discuss the public safety challenges that Alaska Native individuals and communities face, including the Justice Department’s continuing to work in partnership with Tribal communities to address the MMIP crisis. In the past year, Associate Attorney General Gupta has held meetings with Tribal and Native leaders in Minnesota and Alaska. This month in Alaska, the Associate Attorney General spoke at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention to announce the launch of the Alaska Pilot Program, which empowers Tribes to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians present in their Villages for certain crimes.
Since the establishment of the NIAC in 2020, the Justice Department has made strides in implementing systems aimed at preventing new instances of MMIP, locating individuals who are reported missing, and, where a crime has occurred, investigating and prosecuting those responsible. Earlier this summer, the Department launched a MMIP Regional Outreach Program. This program places attorneys and coordinators at U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the United States to help prevent and respond to cases of missing or murdered Indigenous people.