The Department of Justice has made it a priority to address the disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by Native Americans, and relatedly, the high rates of indigenous persons reported missing.
Native Americans face some of the highest rates of violence in the country, experiencing violent crime at higher rates than the national average. Native women and girls experience disproportionately high rates of sexual and gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence. Native men also experience higher rates of violence than other demographic groups. LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people in Tribal communities are also often targets of violence.
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14053, which is aimed at improving public safety and criminal justice for Native Americans and addressing the issues of missing or murdered indigenous people. President Biden’s order directs the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to work together with Tribes. The new Executive Order builds on and lifts up the work underway at the Department of Justice, including to implement Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act. The report pursuant to sections 2 and 4(d) of Executive Order 14053 was submitted to the White House in July, 2022.
In November 2021, the Department launched the Steering Committee to Address the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons. The Steering Committee was tasked—in close consultation with Tribal leaders and stakeholders—with reviewing the Department’s relevant guidance, policies, and practices to improve the law enforcement response in Indian country.
Following that review, on July 13, 2022, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announced a directive to all U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement component heads addressing public safety in Indian country. In a memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Monaco declared it a priority of the Department of Justice to address the disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, and relatedly, the high rates of indigenous persons reported missing. The memorandum directs each U.S. Attorney with Indian country jurisdiction — along with their law enforcement partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) — to update and develop new plans for addressing public safety in Indian country.
In coordination with the Department of the Interior, the Steering Committee has also developed a comprehensive plan to strengthen the federal government’s law enforcement response in Tribal communities. Consistent with Executive Order 14053, the Steering Committee will continue to:
- evaluate and build off existing efforts to develop a coordinated federal law enforcement response for cases falling within federal jurisdiction, including strategies for supporting victims and their loved ones;
- enhance coordination with and support for the Department’s Tribal, state, and local partners;
- build on the Department's efforts to improve data collection, data access and sharing, and education and outreach about federal databases; and
- assess how the Department can best address the root causes of many cases of missing or murdered persons, including by supporting intervention and prevention efforts across the government.
Under the Not Invisible Act, passed in October 2020, the Departments of Justice and Interior will co-chair a Joint Commission on reducing violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives. On June 14-15, 2022, the Not Invisible Act Commission held its first plenary meeting. On May 5, 2022, Secretary Haaland announced the full membership of the Commission, which will be composed of federal and non-federal members with a diverse range of experiences, expertise, and perspectives. The Deputy Attorney General offered remarks at the announcement, where she reiterated that “the federal government must be committed to working with Tribal nations to address the crisis of missing or murdered indigenous people, and I expect the Commission to play a major role in doing so. The Department of Justice is eager to support — and learn from — the Commission’s work.” More information is available in the Department of Justice’s press release and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Not Invisible Act website.
Pursuant to Savanna’s Act, passed in October 2020, the Department of Justice, in cooperation with the Department of Interior, has taken steps to review, revise, and develop protocols to address cases involving missing or murdered Native Americans, including steps to improve the collection of relevant data and expand access to databases. Learn more about the Department's ongoing efforts to implement Savanna's Act.
Under the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, a two-year task force established by Executive Order 13898 that sunset in 2021, the Departments of Justice, Interior, and Health and Human Services conducted Tribal consultations; developed best practices guides and resources for Tribal communities and law enforcement, as well as families, victims, and service providers; established multi-disciplinary teams to review cold cases of missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives; and created a guide for families and loved ones to respond when an AI/AN adult goes missing. You can read OLJ’s final report summarizing their activities and accomplishments.