Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced this week that the Trump administration is launching an effort to investigate the cold cases of scores of American Indian and Native Alaskan women who have disappeared.
The task forces also include top adviser to President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and DOI Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Katuk Sweeney.
DOI said according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center, there are some 1,400 unsolved cases of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaskan Native women in the United States – 136 cases are in Minnesota where the first task forces’ office opened.
The project began on November 26, 2019, when Trump signed Executive Order 13898.
“President Trump created a task force to support Tribal communities, reduce the staggering number of violent crimes committed against American Indians and Alaska Natives and closeout hundreds of cold cases,” Bernhardt said in the announcement. “The Trump Administration is committed to justice and working alongside these Tribal communities to restore peace and prosperity.”
“While visiting the great state of Minnesota with Secretary Bernhardt, we are advancing two top priorities for the administration: The Pledge to America’s Workers and supporting American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” Ivanka Trump said. “We are furthering President Trump’s commitment to forgotten men and women across our country and the Administration’s efforts to ensure that all Americans can live with dignity and the promise of a brighter future.”
“Today’s opening of the first Missing and Murdered Native Americans Cold Case office demonstrates the commitment of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force to achieving the mandate set out for it under President Trump’s executive order,” Sweeney said. “Cold cases in Indian Country will be addressed with determination and the understanding that the victims in these cases will be accorded some measure of dignity and compassion – not only for them, but for their survivors, as well.”
“President Trump’s Executive Order established the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, a multi-agency effort co-chaired by Secretary Bernhardt and U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr,” a press release about the initiative said. “Its purpose is to enhance the operation of the criminal justice system and address the staggering number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Natives in Tribal communities.”
“The Cold Case Task Forces are in accordance with the President’s Executive Order and will be staffed with law enforcement personnel and newly appointed special agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS), along with personnel from other Operation Lady Justice Task Force partners including tribal law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Offices of the U.S. Attorneys,” the press release said.
In addition to Minnesota, Cold Case Task Forces office openings will take place in the following cities:
- Rapid City, SD
- Billings, MT
- Nashville, TN
- Albuquerque, NM
- Phoenix, AZ
- Anchorage, AK
Author: Penny Starr