Trump creates federal task force after thousands of Native Americans murdered, missing


President Trump has launched a task force to look into the high number of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have been murdered or have gone missing.

The task force, comprised of the Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services met Wednesday, co-chaired by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Attorney General William Barr.

In a press release announcing the new initiative, the task force “is composed of federal officials charged with enhancing the criminal justice response, consulting with tribal governments on potential solutions and empowering native communities with information.”

Trump creates federal task force after thousands of Native Americans murdered, missing


“President Trump is committed to addressing systemic challenges in Indian country, and this task force will develop and implement an aggressive, government-wide strategy to combat the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Bernhardt said. “By working together and listening to impacted citizens and tribal communities, we intend to tackle these complex issues.”

“The disappearance and death of American Indian and Alaska Native people, particularly women and girls, is an especially tragic chapter in a long story of marginalization and trauma suffered by native people,” said Barr. “We are committed to addressing this challenge, to reducing the violence and protecting the vulnerable from exploitation and abuse.”

“The task force is eager to get to work to address the issues that underlie this terrible problem, and work with our tribal partners to find solutions, raise awareness, and bring answers and justice to the grieving,” Barr said.

“I am grateful that President Trump has made it a priority to tackle the traffic issue of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “Native Americans deserve safety and security in their communities, and HHS has a vital role in helping by providing culturally appropriate prevention and trauma informed services to victims and their families.”

“I am committed to working in partnership with President Trump, Attorney General Barr, Secretary Bernhardt, and tribal leaders and members to make a positive impact on this important challenge,” Azar said.

Last December, the president announced the formation of the task force. The program, called Operation Lady Justice, was formed during an Oval Office signing ceremony on Nov. 26.


Joining the president at the ceremony were Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer and Second Lady Dottie Lizer; Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin; Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairman Kevin DuPuis; and Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid Jr—all of whom thanked the president.

“I commend President Trump and his administration for recognizing the traumatic epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous relatives,” Lizer said. “Throughout our tribal nations, we hear far too many stories of families, victims and survivors, so we need to keep our sacred women and children safe and protected.”

Of course, the president cannot get credit for anything he tries to do, especially from Democrats. Democratic Congresswoman Deb Holland of New Mexico, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, called the funding inadequate.

“The DOJ’s plan reflects a lack of consultation with Tribes, which is a pattern of this Administration on all Indian Country issues,” she said in a statement.

Susan Harjo, Hodulgee Muscogee and a member of the Cheyenne tribe, is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and lifelong champion of Native rights.


Harjo said that she believes the task force is an effort to take the missing and murdered issue away from Democrats during stalled efforts to renew the Violence Against Women Act that expired last February.

Last April, the House passed a version of the VAWA that would block people convicted of stalking or abusing partners from buying guns, a provision that was opposed by Senate Republicans.

“In this case, the Presidents’ GOP women and men in the Senate were not going to allow enactment of the substantive legislation,” Harjo said. “And the Trump 2020 campaign wanted to claim an issue and take it away from the Democrats in the Senate and in the 2020 race—so the Task Force seems to be the best route to make any advance on the issue and to tie the controlling party to the outcome of its own process.”

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See, this is the problem with Washington, DC. Democrats in the House put a provision in a bill which they know will not pass the Republicans in the Senate, then they try to blame the Republicans for not passing the bill, especially in the current climate in Washington. If the Congressional Democrats passed a clean bill, they would have a much better chance of getting it passed instead of loading it down with garbage that the Republicans won’t accept.

“No survivors are helped by a bill (that isn’t signed into law),” Iowa Republican Sen. Jodi Ernst said. “The Senate Democrats’ bill is a non-starter. It won’t pass the Senate. It won’t get the president’s signature.”

For his part, President Trump has called the high rates of violence in the Native American community “sobering and heartbreaking.”

The task force will “review Indian County cold cases, to strengthen law enforcement protocols, and work with tribes to improve investigations, information sharing and a more seamless response to missing persons investigations.”

The details of how the task force will work are:

  • Consult with tribal governments on the scope and nature of the problem and will hold regional consultations and listening sessions at several location around the country;
  • Develop model protocols and procedures for addressing both new and unsolved cases of missing and murdered persons in tribal communities;
  • Establish a multi-disciplinary, multi-jurisdictional team, which will include tribal law enforcement, to review cold cases;
  • Address issues related to roles, authorities, and jurisdiction among tribal, local, state and federal agencies; and
  • Develop and execute a public awareness, education and outreach campaign for affected communities.
  • The task force will host its first listening session at the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Council Winter Session in Washington, D.C. on February 12.

“This initiative’s important to Indian Country and Alaska native communities,” said Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. “And if the current practice had been effective, we wouldn’t be here today,” she told ABC News.

ABC News further reported, “Of almost 6,000 indigenous women reported missing in 2016, only 116 were logged into the Justice Department’s missing persons database, according to a report by the Urban Indian Health Institute.”

Marcia Good of the Department of Justice has been named the executive director of the task force. They will issue a progress report to the President on Nov. 26, 2020 and is expected to have a final report with a deadline of Nov. 26, 2021.


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