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Justice Department Strengthens Efforts, Builds Partnerships To Address MMIP Crisis

The Justice Department joined 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 Awareness Day.

In recognition of MMIP Awareness Day, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland highlighted ongoing efforts to tackle the MMIP and human trafficking crises in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and other pressing public safety challenges, like the fentanyl crisis, in tribal 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.”

“On Sunday, May 5, we recognize and honor American Indian and Alaska Native persons who have gone missing or have been murdered and renew our commitment to address this crisis. Every person deserves to feel safe in their home and community. The loss of even one Indigenous man, woman or child through disappearance or murder is unacceptable, and we acknowledge the pain and suffering these losses cause families and communities,” said U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich, for the District of Montana. “We also acknowledge that Indigenous women and children face disproportionally higher rates of violence and sexual abuse. And we reaffirm our commitment to do everything we can to find the missing, hold killers accountable and seek justice for the missing or murdered by continuing to work with all our federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners. And while we are not perfect, we are making progress. We meet regularly with tribal leadership for the Blackfeet, Rocky Boy’s, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes about the issues they’re facing. We are determined to do the hard work of reducing violence and improving public safety for all Indigenous persons.”

“The FBI remains unwavering in our pledge to work with our law enforcement partners to address the violence that has disproportionately harmed Tribal communities and families,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We will continue to prioritize our support of victims and will steadfastly pursue investigations into the crime impacting American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”

“DEA’s top priority is protecting all communities from deadly drugs, like fentanyl, and drug related violent crime,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “We know that no community has been spared from these deadly threats and we are committed to keeping tribal communities safe.”

Justice Department Prioritization of MMIP Cases Last July, the Justice Department announced the creation of the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons 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 Outreach 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.

Not Invisible Act Commission Response The Department’s work to respond to the MMIP crisis is a whole-of-department effort. 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 the missing or murdered Indigenous peoples and human trafficking crisis. The NIAC response, announced by Attorney General Garland during a visit to the Crow Nation in Montana, 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. 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 disproportionate violence against women, families, and children; substance abuse; drug trafficking; and labor and sex trafficking — can influence the rates of missing AI/AN persons.

Further, fentanyl poisoning and overdose deaths are the leading cause of opioid deaths throughout the United States, including Indian county, where drug-related overdose death rates for Native Americans exceeds the national rate.

Therefore, federal law enforcement components are ramping up efforts to forge stronger partnerships with federal and Tribal law enforcement partners to address violent crime and the fentanyl crisis, which exposes already vulnerable communities to greater harm. For instance: In the District of Montana, federal, local and tribal law enforcement, through a collaborative investigation, dismantled a large-scale, multistate methamphetamine and narcotics trafficking conspiracy that ran from January 2022 until March 2023 and was based on two properties on the Crow Reservation, including one known as Spear Siding. The investigation determined that while based on the Crow Reservation, trafficking operations reached across Montana, including to the Northern Cheyenne, Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s reservations. The investigation into Spear Siding activities has led to federal charges against more than two dozen defendants, 13 of whom have been convicted and sentenced.

Accessing Department of Justice Resource 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 crisis, please visit the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons section of the Tribal Safety and Justice website at https://www.justice. gov/tribal/mmip.

Visit https://www.justice. gov/action-center/report- and-identify-missingpersons for more information about reporting or identifying missing persons.

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