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Press Release

Justice and Interior Departments Outline Commitment, Next Steps in Effort to Address Missing or Murdered Indigenous Peoples and Human Trafficking Crisis

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

The Departments of Justice and the Interior today released their joint response to the Not Invisible Act Commission’s recommendations on how to combat the missing or murdered Indigenous peoples (MMIP) and human trafficking crisis. The response recognizes that more must be done across the federal government to resolve this longstanding crisis and support healing from the generational traumas that Indigenous peoples have endured throughout the history of the United States.

“These recommendations are an important and necessary step toward healing the trauma, pain, and loss that Tribal communities have endured for generations,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is committed to working with our partners at the Department of the Interior to put an end to the missing or murdered Indigenous persons and human trafficking crisis. We are deeply grateful to the Not Invisible Act commissioners and the survivors and family members of victims who testified before the Commission about their heartbreaking experiences. Those testimonies and the Commission’s recommendations will continue to guide our work.”

“Addressing violent crimes against Indigenous peoples has long been underfunded and ignored, as a cause of intergenerational trauma that has affected our communities since colonization,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Through historic efforts like the Not Invisible Act Commission, we’re identifying recommendations created by Indian Country, for Indian Country. This will ensure that epidemics like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Crisis and Human Trafficking are addressed with the resources they demand.”

The Justice and Interior Departments’ response addresses the Commission’s areas of concern including:

  • Law enforcement and investigative resources;
  • Recruitment and retention of law enforcement;
  • Data collection and reporting;
  • Cross-jurisdictional coordination;
  • Family and survivor resources;
  • Improving public safety resources; and
  • Alaska-specific issues.

The Not Invisible Act Commission was created by the Not Invisible Act, the enactment of which was led by Secretary Haaland during her time in Congress. The Commission included law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing or murdered individuals, and survivors. As mandated by the Act, the Commission developed recommendations for federal government actions to take on focused topics to combat violent crime against Indigenous people and within Indian lands, and to address the epidemic of missing people, and the murder or trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, as specified under the law.

Background on Efforts to Address the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP)

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. In March 2022, the President signed the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 into law, which built on advancements from previous reauthorizations and reinforced Tribal sovereignty by recognizing Tribes’ inherent authority 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 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. In addition, at the Tribal Nations Summit, the Attorney General announced the selection of the Justice Department’s first Native American Outreach Services Liaison, who works to ensure that victims of crimes have a voice in every step of the criminal justice process where the federal government has jurisdiction.

Attorney General Garland traveled to Alaska last August, meeting with Tribal leaders and representatives of Native Tribal organizations to discuss public safety challenges and partnerships with Tribal communities to combat the MMIP crisis.

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.

In June 2023, the Justice Department launched the MMIP Regional Outreach Program. This program places regional 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, and it will work closely with the Native American Outreach Services Liaison to improve the Justice Department’s response to the MMIP crisis.

The Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime expanded the scope of allowable activities under its Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside grant program to permit Tribal communities to pay for costs related to generating awareness of individual missing persons cases involving American Indians and Alaska Native persons, supporting search efforts and coordination of Tribal, state, and federal responses to MMIP cases.

Updated March 8, 2024