(White House Press Release, October 10, 2020)
President Donald J. Trump was the first president to formally recognize the tragedy of Missing and Murdered Native Americans, when he issued a Proclamation in May of 2019 drawing attention to this issue. Today, he proudly signed into law S. 227, Savanna’s Act, which directs the Department of Justice to develop law enforcement protocols to address the issue, and S. 982, the Not Invisible Act of 2019, which directs the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice to establish a joint commission on violent crime within and against the Native American community. These two bills reinforce many actions the President has already undertaken to fulfill his promise that Missing and Murdered Native Americans are no longer forgotten.
Native American communities are facing a crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in particular women and children. One study found that Native American women in certain tribal communities are ten times more likely to be murdered than the average American.
President Trump took decisive action to combat this tragedy. On November 26, 2019, he signed an Executive Order establishing the Operation Lady Justice Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, which developed an aggressive, government-wide strategy to combat the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, specifically women and children.
Since its launch, in coordination with tribal communities, the Operation Lady Justice Task Force has opened six cold case offices across the country, conducted 12 regional consultations, and hosted numerous listening sessions, to ensure that the work of the Task Force is shaped by the voices and experiences of the Native American community. The Task Force established teams to investigate cold cases and a centralized website to provide resources and announcements for the public. It is currently working to develop model protocols for handling missing and murdered cases. The Task Force is also now preparing to integrate the directives in Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act into its current work streams. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is supplementing the Task Force’s efforts by providing critical funding to improve public safety and serve victims of crimes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Just recently, DOJ announced $295.8 million in grants to tribal governments across the country.
The Trump Administration has made it a priority to address issues facing Indian Country. Earlier this year, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which provided $8 billion to address COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery needs and programming to support American Indians and Alaska Natives—the single largest programmatic investment in Indian Country in the history of our Nation. The President also executed an agreement with Finland to repatriate culturally important remains and artifacts to the Pueblos and tribes with heritage in the Mesa Verde region. Finally, the President launched the Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health System, which recently released a report examining systematic problems – and solutions – in the Indian Health System that resulted in failures to protect children.
President Trump looks forward to continuing this Administration’s partnership with Indian Country through implementation of these laws and the ongoing work being done by the Operation Lady Justice Task Force.