“The Justice Department is committed to addressing the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous persons with the urgency it demands. That commitment is reflected in the strength of our partnerships across the federal government, including with the Department of the Interior as we take the next steps in launching the Not Invisible Act Commission. The Commissioners announced today will play a critical role in our efforts to better meet the public safety needs of Native communities. The Justice Department will continue to work alongside our Tribal partners with respect, sincerity, and a shared interest in the wellbeing of Tribal communities.”
–Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, May 5, 2022
The Justice Department joins its partners across the federal government, as well as people through American Indian and Alaska Native communities, in recognizing May 5, 2022 as National Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. Today and every day, the Department of Justice considers it a priority to respond to the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP).
Earlier today, the Departments of Justice and Interior announced the members of the joint Commission under the Not Invisible Act. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco joined Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland at a virtual event announcing the members of the Commission. Read Deputy Attorney General Monaco’s remarks here.
The Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice, Tracy Toulou, will serve as a co-chair of the Commission. He will be joined by representatives from across the department, including from law enforcement and grantmaking components. The Commissioners announced today represent a diverse range of experiences, expertise and perspectives, and include survivors who can speak firsthand to the urgency of the Commission’s work, as well as Tribal leaders and members.
Commissioners will issue recommendations to the Attorney General and Secretary of the Interior on how to improve intergovernmental coordination, as well as how to identify best practices for federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement when responding to the violence directed at American Indians and Alaska Natives.
MMIP Steering Committee
In November 2021, the President issued a new Executive Order, which reflected a whole-of-government response to promoting public safety in Native communities. In a November 15 directive, Deputy Attorney General Monaco identified the department’s work to address missing or murdered indigenous persons as “a priority for its law enforcement components,” and launched a Steering Committee dedicated to marshalling the department’s personnel and resources to this effort. The Steering Committee has made Tribal engagement the cornerstone of its work, and through those ongoing conversations, has heard the need for better communication and coordination between federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement.
Consistent with Savanna’s Act, the department has directed each of its U.S. Attorney’s Offices with Tribal land to develop regionally appropriate guidelines for responding to MMIP cases. The Department has also issued guidance to and conducted training with each of its 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on how to develop these guidelines. U.S. Attorney’s Offices have held consultations with federal, state, and Tribal partners in their districts to develop guidelines tailored to their specific communities and will finalize those plans this month. Once those plans are finalized, the department’s relevant law enforcement components will modify their own protocols to incorporate the guidelines. State, local and Tribal law enforcement should contact their local U.S. Attorney’s Office for more information on the department’s guidance. You can learn more about the department’s efforts to implement Savanna’s Act here.
Department Announces New National Native American Outreach Services Liaison
The department announced today a new position to spearhead its efforts better reach Native victims, survivors and families: a National Native American Outreach Services Liaison. The Liaison will work in our Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and help ensure that victims and their families have a voice within the department as they navigate all stages of the criminal justice system. You can find the posting for this new position here.
Department Launches New Dedicated MMIP Website
Last month, the Department launched a new page on our Tribal Justice and Safety website dedicated to elevating the issue of MMIP. This new website serves as a central hub of resources for families and victims and also promotes transparency about the Department’s law enforcement efforts.
VAWA Reauthorization Promotes Public Safety in Tribal Communities
Also this year, the department helped advance the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and its important provisions to promote safety in Tribal communities, including the expansion of Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction, which recognizes the authority of Tribal courts to exercise jurisdiction over crimes of family violence, including child abuse, that are often precursors to missing or murdered person cases.