Story at a glance
- Haaland announced the formation of the Missing & Murdered Unit to investigate cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
- Haaland, herself, made history as the first Native American Cabinet secretary.
- Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the formation of the Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU), which will investigate the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Haaland, herself a Laguna Pueblo woman who made history as the first Native American Cabinet secretary, stated the unit will expand on the already existing Operation Lady Justice task force. Both will be housed within the Bureau of Indian Affairs of Justice Services, and the bureau will provide support to the new unit.
“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” Haaland said in a news release. “The new MMU 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.”
Homicide is the third-leading cause of death for Native American women in the United States, and they are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average, according to the Justice Department.
One major issue in investigating the disappearances and murders of Indigenous people is that tribes don’t have jurisdiction because these are considered major crimes and are to be handled by federal law enforcement. However, advocates say these cases aren’t given the same time or attention and that law enforcement doesn’t tend to consult or work with the tribal nations while investigating, leading to distrust.
Haaland remains optimistic and intent on changing this, stating the MMU will work on new and unresolved cases directly with tribal nations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the FBI.
“Whether it’s a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands-on deck,” Haaland said. “We are fully committed to assisting Tribal communities with these investigations, and the MMU will leverage every resource available to be a force-multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations.”
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE