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Press Release

United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington Hires Assistant United States Attorney Dedicated to Prosecuting MMIP Cases in the Northwest United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Yakima, Washington - United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref announced today that Bree R. Black Horse has joined her office as an Assistant United States Attorney dedicated to prosecuting cases involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP), in connection with the Justice Department’s MMIP regional program. AUSA Black Horse will work out of our Yakima Office, but she will serve throughout the Northwest Region – including in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and California.

AUSA Black Horse is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, AUSA Black Horse worked in the Native American practice group at the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend advising Tribal governments and enterprises on all aspects of federal, state, and tribal law, including tribal sovereignty, economic development, treaty rights, and complex Indian country litigation.  AUSA Black Horse previously served as a law clerk to Chief U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Morris for the District of Montana, and as a legal aid attorney and public defender for the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.  AUSA Black Horse was the Program Director for the 2023 Law School Admission Council’s Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars Program, which aims to make a law degree more accessible for diverse students from Central Washington.  She is a 2013 graduate of Seattle University School of Law where she was the Douglas R. Nash Native American Scholar as well as the co-founder and editor-in chief of the American Indian Law Journal.  She received her undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University in Political Science and Government in 2010. 

“Our District is committed to being a leader in addressing the MMIP crisis. I am honored to welcome AUSA Black Horse as the newest member of the Department of Justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref.  AUSA Black Horse will serve as the Assistant United States Attorney dedicated to prosecuting cases involving matters related to MMIP on Native American Reservations.  Her appointment demonstrates DOJ’s commitment to combating the root causes of MMIP crisis and holding those who commit these crimes accountable. I am also grateful for the close relationships with have with our Tribal, Federal and State partners as we work together in the joint mission of ensuring justice for all. As we welcome AUSA Black Horse, we reiterate our shared commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all who call Eastern Washington home.”

AUSA Black Horse expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this important role. “For far too long Indigenous men, women and children have suffered violence at rates higher than many other demographics,” stated AUSA Black Horse. “As I step into this role, I look forward to working with our local, state, and tribal partners to identify concrete ways of reducing violence and improving public safety in Indian country and elsewhere.  I also look forward to honing my skills as a federal prosecutor and working with others who are dedicated to DOJ’s mission to seek justice on behalf of victims and their families.” 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to hold a formal swearing in for AUSA Black Horse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will provide additional details when the schedule for that event is set.

A woman is in front of an American flag

The MMIP regional program prioritizes MMIP cases consistent with the Deputy Attorney General’s July 2022 directive to United States Attorneys’ offices promoting public safety in Indian country. The program fulfills the Justice Department’s promise to dedicate new personnel to MMIP consistent with Executive Order 14053, Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People, and the Department’s Federal Law Enforcement Strategy to Prevent and respond to Violence Against American Indians and Alaska Natives, Including to Address Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons issued in July 2022.

The program dedicates five MMIP Assistant U.S. Attorneys and five MMIP coordinators to provide specialized support to United States Attorneys’ offices to address and combat the issues of MMIP.  This support includes assisting in the investigation of unresolved MMIP cases and related crimes, and promoting communication, coordination, and collaboration among federal, Tribal, local, and state law enforcement and non-governmental partners on MMIP issues.  The five regions include the Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Great Lakes, and Southeast Regions, and MMIP personnel will be located within host United States Attorneys’ offices in the Districts of Alaska, Arizona, Eastern Washington, Minnesota, New Mexico, Northern Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Western Michigan.  Programmatic support will be provided by the MMIP Regional Outreach Program Coordinator at the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

More broadly, this MMIP Program will complement the work of the Justice Department’s National Native American Outreach Services Liaison, who is helping amplify the voice of crime victims in Indian country and their families as they navigate the federal criminal justice system.  Further, the MMIP Program will liaise with and enhance the work of the Department’s Tribal Liaisons and Indian Country Assistant United States Attorneys throughout Indian Country, the Native American Issues Coordinator, and the National Indian Country Training Initiative Coordinator to ensure a comprehensive response to MMIP.


Robert Curry

Public Affairs Specialist 

Updated February 28, 2024

Indian Country Law and Justice