The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) today released a status report detailing accomplishments during its first year and outlining its strategy for the next 12 months. The President’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13898, set forth a range of tasks to be completed over the two-year life of the Task Force, with required reports at the end of each year. Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt transmitted the status report to President Trump, and notably characterized these accomplishments as, “a productive first year of Task Force operations.”
In its first year, the Task Force, also known as Operation Lady Justice (OLJ), held more than 15 in-person and remote meetings with tribes, individuals and stakeholder groups, and established and convened 10 working groups to address specific mandates of the executive order, including developing protocols, solving cold cases and expanding outreach and awareness. Readouts of the sessions can be found on the Operation Lady Justice website.
“American Indians and Alaska Natives experience some of the highest rates of violence in the country, a situation that is all the more tragic in light of the generations of trauma already suffered by indigenous people,” said Attorney General Barr. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented challenges it posed, the Task Force continued to progress with appropriate urgency to diagnose the symptoms of this intractable problem. They sought the help and input from tribal leaders and tribal communities to develop sustainable protocols that will lead to long-term resolutions tribal communities need and deserve.”
“The Trump Administration has taken numerous actions to support Tribal communities with a particular focus on addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaska Natives,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt. “The new cold case offices that we stood up around the country are already providing much needed support in a critical effort to resolve missing and murdered cases and provide justice for victims and their families.”
“It has been a true honor to represent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the Operation Lady Justice Task Force and serve Native American communities and populations,” said Commissioner Jeannie Hovland of the Administration for Native Americans. “Tribal leaders and community advocates have been on the forefront of this issue for years. At their request, I have elevated the critical role prevention must play in reducing the number of Native Americans who tragically go missing or are murdered. With their partnership and guidance, HHS is taking unprecedented action on this issue using a public health approach. This means addressing the root causes of this issue. I believe that together we can, and will, end the crisis of Missing and Murdered Native Americans.”
“President Trump was the first President to formally recognize the long-overlooked issue of missing and murdered Native Americans, but more importantly he demanded action,” said Doug Hoelscher, Assistant to the President and Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs. “The work of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, created by President Trump’s executive order, is laying a solid foundation for long-sought progress by improving data coordination, enhancing collaboration among various law enforcement entities, creating several cold case offices, and elevating support for victims and their families. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and the hard work of the Task Force members, tribal partners, and advocates, missing and murdered Native Americans are forgotten no more!”
President Trump signed E.O. 13898 on November 26, 2019, establishing the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, to “address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered people.” The order requires the Task Force to submit a status report in November 2020 and a final report in November 2021. Attorney General Barr and Secretary Bernhardt are co-chairs, with Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney serving as their designees. Marcia Good, from the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice, is executive director.
As noted in the report, the Task Force will continue to consult with tribal leaders and solicit stakeholder feedback as it develops strategies for strengthening investigations, raising public awareness, and improving data collection and information sharing. Submission of the report caps National Native American Heritage Month. A list of Task Force members follows:
- Katherine (Katie) Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Office of Justice Programs U.S. Department of Justice Designee for Attorney General
- Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs U.S. Department of the Interior Designee for the Secretary of the Interior
- Charles (Charlie) Addington, Deputy Bureau Director Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services U.S. Department of the Interior
- Jean (Jeannie) Hovland, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs and Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Laura Rogers, Principal Deputy Director Office on Violence Against Women U.S. Department of Justice
- Trent Shores, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee
- Terry Wade, Executive Assistant Director Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch Federal Bureau of Investigation