The Department of Interior on Thursday announced the creation of a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs tasked with supporting investigations into missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Why it matters: Approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons cases have been reported to the National Crime Information Center, and about 2,700 cases of murder and non-negligent homicide offenses have been reported to the federal government, according to the Interior Department.
- The number of cases, however, is feared to be much higher, rights groups say.
- According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Indigenous women in the U.S. face murder rates more than 10 times higher than the national average.
Last year, then-President Trump signed a bill aimed at addressing missing and murdered Native Americans.
- A task force was created in 2019 “to address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered people.”
What they’re saying: “Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.
- “Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” she added.
- “The new [Missing & Murdered Unit] will provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families.”