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Deb Haaland creates unit to investigate Indigenous killings and disappearances


“Violence against indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades,” Haaland said in a statement Thursday. “Too often cases of murders and missing persons in Indian country go unresolved and unresolved, leaving families and communities devastated.

Thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been killed or gone missing for years. Their families and activists say the cases are often ignored by law enforcement, forcing them to draw attention to the issue through social media campaigns, marches and protests.

The new unit is expected to “help put the full weight of the federal government” to investigate cases and coordinate resources between federal agencies and the Indian country, according to the Home Office.

Approximately 1,500 Native Americans and Missing Alaska Indians have been recorded in the United States by the National Crime Information Center, and 2,700 homicide cases have been reported to the federal government’s Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.

The Justice Department has reported that on some reserves, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.

But the existing data and statistics on the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples across the United States are not exhaustive, advocates say.

Annita Lucchesi, descendant of the Cheyenne tribe and executive director of the Sovereign Bodies Institute, has been counting the missing and murdered cases for several years.

The native-led research organization has documented 2,306 Native American women and girls missing in the United States since the 1900s – and about 58% of those cases were homicides, the group said in a report last year.

Lucchesi said he hopes the new initiative led by the Interior Ministry is “beneficial to families, pushes business to justice and truly holds law enforcement accountable for their complicity in the matter.”

Previous efforts to resolve the crisis have not been successful in the eyes of the families of the victims, Lucchessi said, because “law enforcement is just not investigating as it should and the justice system is not prosecuting. not like they said “.

Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order in 2019 setting up a federal interagency task force dedicated to these cases, called Operation Lady Justice.

In its first year, the task force met with tribal leaders and other stakeholders to develop strategies for strengthening surveys, raising public awareness, and improving data collection and sharing. information. Last summer, the task force also established the first of seven teams across the country dedicated to examining cold cases, according to a report on the task force’s progress.

The new unit will build on the work of the task force and appoint new leadership and support positions, the department said in a statement.

“Whether it’s a missing family member or a homicide investigation, those efforts will all be practical,” Haaland said. “We are fully committed to assisting tribal communities with these investigations, and the MMU will use all available resources to be a force multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations.”

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