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Press Release

Justice Department Strengthens Efforts, Builds Partnerships to Address Violent Crime in Indian Country

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

The Justice Department joins its partners across the federal government, as well as people throughout American Indian and Alaska Native communities, in recognizing May 5 as National Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day.

In recognition of MMIP Awareness Day, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced stepped up and continued efforts to tackle violent crime and other pressing public safety challenges, like the fentanyl crisis, which have negatively affected Native Americans, exacerbating violence and addiction in already vulnerable communities.

“There is still so much more to do in the face of persistently high levels of violence that Tribal communities have endured for generations, and that women and girls, particularly, have endured,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In carrying out our work, we seek to honor those who are still missing, those who were stolen from their communities, and their loved ones who are left with unimaginable pain. Tribal communities deserve safety, and they deserve justice. This day challenges all of us at the Justice Department to double down on our efforts, and to be true partners with Tribal communities as we seek to end this crisis.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming is dedicated to maintaining and improving public safety on the Wind River Indian Reservation by assisting in investigations and prosecuting crimes committed there, including crimes involving missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Since 1995, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has maintained a branch office in Lander, Wyoming, to serve the Reservation. The staff of the Lander office, consisting of three experienced federal prosecutors and a paralegal, is focused on prosecuting violent crimes and drug trafficking crimes committed on the Reservation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently moved one of those three prosecutors from Cheyenne to Lander and it also added a fourth prosecutor, located in Cheyenne, to its Indian Country Prosecution Team. One of the prosecutors in Lander also serves as the office’s Tribal Liaison. In that role, she continually engages with Tribal and law enforcement officials, and other stakeholders, on the Reservation.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office works closely with our federal, Tribal, state, and local law enforcement partners in and around the Reservation,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas Vassallo. “We could not be effective without these partnerships.”

Like the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI maintains an office in Lander to investigate crimes committed on the Reservation. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs operates the Wind River Police Department and employs special agents on the Reservation.

Justice Department Prioritization of MMIP Cases
Last July, the Justice Department announced the creation of the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program, which permanently places 10 attorneys and coordinators in five designated regions across the United States to aid in the prevention and response to missing or murdered Indigenous people. The five regions include the Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Great Lakes, and Southeast Regions.

The MMIP regional program prioritizes MMIP cases consistent with the Deputy Attorney General’s July 2022 directive to U.S. 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.

In Wyoming, the FBI is currently engaged in a data collection project to further refine its understanding of the MMIP situation in the state and determine what additional resources the FBI can bring to address the problem. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office fully supports the FBI’s MMIP project,” said U.S. Attorney Vassallo, “and we encourage the public to report what they know about any missing or murdered Indigenous persons.” The FBI has set up a designated email account,, to collect information from citizens across Wyoming who might have information about unsolved cases involving missing tribal members or Native Americans whose murders have not been solved. Whether these cases were never reported, were never properly investigated, or new information is available, the FBI wants to hear about it.  People can also leave a message at 307-433-3221. All callers who leave a name and phone number will receive a return call.

Not Invisible Act Commission Response
In March, the Departments of Justice and the Interior released their joint response to the Not Invisible Act Commission’s recommendations on how to combat violent crime in Indian Country, including missing or murdered Indigenous persons cases and human trafficking cases. The NIAC response, announced by Attorney General Garland during a visit to the Crow Nation, recognizes that more must be done across the federal government to help resolve this longstanding issue and support healing from the generational traumas that Indigenous peoples have endured throughout the history of the United States.

Addressing Violent Crime and the Fentanyl Crisis in Indian Country
As noted in the joint response to the NIAC, research suggests that certain public safety challenges faced by many American Indian and Alaska Native communities—including violence against women, families, and children; substance abuse; drug trafficking; and labor and sex trafficking—increase the number of missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Further, fentanyl poisoning and overdose deaths are the leading cause of opioid deaths throughout the United States, including Indian County. In response, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners have ramped up efforts to address the fentanyl crisis and related violent crime.

In Wyoming, the FBI leads the Safe Trails Task Force, which investigates drug trafficking on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and in surrounding communities, with an emphasis on stopping the distribution of fentanyl. In addition to the FBI, task force members include the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Riverton Police Department, and the Lander Police Department.

Accessing Department of Justice Resources
Over the past year, the Department awarded $268 million in grants to help enhance Tribal justice systems and strengthen law enforcement responses. These awards have also gone toward improving the handling of child abuse cases, combating domestic and sexual violence, supporting Tribal youth programs, and strengthening victim services in Tribal communities. For additional information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to address the MMIP problem, please visit the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons section of the Tribal Safety and Justice website at For information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming and the cases we prosecute, please visit the News section of the office’s website at For more information about reporting or identifying missing persons, please visit the Justice Department’s Report and Identify Missing Persons website at

Updated May 3, 2024

Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 24-029