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Press Release

U.S. Attorneys from the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma Select a Coordinator for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons Cases

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Oklahoma

U.S. Attorneys Trent Shores, Brian Kuester, and Timothy Downing today announced the selection of a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Coordinator to serve in Oklahoma. Ms. Patti Buhl was selected for this critical position. Ms. Buhl will maximize the resources of the three United States Attorney’s Offices to ensure effective and timely responses to missing and murdered Native Americans in Oklahoma.

As MMIP Coordinator, she will support investigations into missing and murdered persons; consult with tribal communities to assist in the creation and implementation of community action plans; coordinate with tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement in the development of protocols and procedures for responding to MMIP cases; and promote improvement of data collection and analyses throughout Oklahoma. Her start date is June 8.

“Patti Buhl will be a difference maker in our efforts to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans. Now is the time for action, and Oklahoma’s United States Attorneys are prepared to help lead the way,” said Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

“The joint MMIP coordinator will maximize the collaborative efforts of the three Oklahoma United States Attorney’s Offices as we work toward our common goal of ensuring appropriate response to missing and murdered indigenous people in Oklahoma,” said Brian J. Kuester, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. “Ms. Buhl will undoubtedly find great support from our federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement partners and non-governmental service organizations who understand and appreciate that working together we can and will enhance public safety in Indian Country.”

“We are pleased to have Ms. Buhl join our ranks to help further our great working relationship with all our tribes and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Oklahoma to address violence in Indian Country,” said Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.  “Together, we will continue to partner with tribes to improve public safety for all Native Americans throughout the state.”

On November 22, 2019, Attorney General William Barr launched a national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. When establishing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative, the Department of Justice made an initial investment of $1.5 million to hire MMIP coordinators to serve with U.S. Attorney’s Offices in 11 states.  States receiving MMIP coordinators are Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Michigan, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington.

“Congratulations to the U.S. Attorneys and Patti Buhl for joining together to investigate and locate missing Native Americans. The missing are mostly children and women. Protecting our most vulnerable people by the tribes working with the Department of Justice will halt these atrocities,” said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.

The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes also voiced support for the hiring of Ms. Buhl:

“For too many Natives, violence is an ever-present threat. We must do more to stop this nightmare that has haunted Native persons for far too long, and appointing Ms. Buhl as a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons coordinator here in Oklahoma is crucial to this mission. With her background in law enforcement, including her time working with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service and investigating missing persons cases, Ms. Buhl will play a pivotal role in helping to find the many Native Americans who have gone missing, most of them women and children. As tribal leaders, we are especially proud that a member of a federally recognized tribe has been chosen for this role, knowing full well that her work will make a lasting difference across all of Indian Country. The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for taking this important step."

Leaders of the council are Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Greg Chilcoat, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill.

Prior to her selection as MMIP coordinator, Ms. Buhl served in law enforcement at Northeastern State University.

“Patti joined the NSU team in 2003 and eventually became our first female Chief of Police in 2009,” said Northeastern State University President Steve Turner. “I appreciate Patti’s 17 years of dedicated service protecting the NSU family and citizens of our communities. Although she understood and embraced her role as an enforcer of the law, she was always a teacher who worked tirelessly to educate our students on appropriate and lawful conduct. Her experience will be invaluable to her new role with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. ”

Ms. Buhl, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has worked in law enforcement for 25 years, most recently serving Chief of Police for Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She has also served with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service where she enforced tribal, state, Federal, and municipal laws within the 14 county jurisdictional boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. Ms. Buhl is experienced in investigating missing persons and coordinating with tribal governments and organizations. She has also collaborated with the FBI, Secret Service, and IRS while investigating criminal cases. Ms. Buhl has further assisted in the development of policies and guidelines for law enforcement. She earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and is on track to receive her Juris Doctor from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in December 2020.

Also this week, the Presidential Task Force on Murdered and Missing American Indians and Alaska Natives is holding remote listening sessions with Tribes throughout the country. U.S. Attorney Trent Shores is a member of the Task Force. On May 29, from 1-2:30 pm CDT, a listening session is scheduled to be held with the Tribes from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming. Tribal Listening Session Webinars are open to Tribal Leaders and others. Sessions will include a short presentation about the current activities of the task force, followed by a listening session.

The Task Force was announced on Nov. 26, 2019. It was established by President Donald Trump to address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered people — particularly missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. You can learn more about the Task Force, also known as Operation Lady Justice, here.


Public Affairs

Updated May 28, 2020

Indian Country Law and Justice