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May 5 recognized by Justice Department as Missing or Murdered Indigenous Person Awareness Day

In response to the missing or murdered indigenous persons crisis, the department is looking to raise awareness on the issue.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — President Joe Biden, acknowledging the continued "epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous people," proclaimed May 5, 2023 as National Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day

According to data reported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, about 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center throughout the country and almost 2,700 cases of murder and nonnegligent homicide offenses have been reported to the federal government's Uniform Crime Reporting Program impacting these communities. 

However, the need to raise awareness of the issue of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) comes from the number of these cases that go unsolved or are not properly investigated, and that happen at a much higher rate in these communities than in the rest of the country.

This is why, in 2020, the Not Invisible Act was signed into law, becoming the first bill to be introduced and passed by four U.S. congressional members enrolled in their respective federally recognized Tribes. The group was led by then-congresswoman, now Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland who is the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary.

As a result of the act, Secretary Haaland along with Attorney General Merrick established the Not Invisible Act Commission in order to reduce violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives. The commission is also tasked with delivering recommendations to the attorney general and the secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for addressing the crisis, according to a press release by the DOJ. 

As reported by the DOJ, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta claims that “The Justice Department is committed to using every resource at its disposal to combat the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Crisis." 

Associate Attorney General Gupta listed "grant funding and guidance to help Tribes develop response plans for missing-persons cases, partner effectively with local law enforcement, and provide resources for victims of crime," as some of the ways the DOJ is addressing the crisis. Included among these is an update to the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance that will include cultural and linguistics considerations for victims from American Indian and Alaska Natives.

In Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation unveiled a tribute display at the W. W. Keeler Tribal Complex "to raise awareness about the staggering statistics that disproportionately affect Native people, including women and girl."

"We continue to expand our ONE FIRE Victim Services office, hired more marshals and prosecutors to protect victims and prosecute those who commit crimes and have assigned an MMIP investigator to cases in our reservation. We will continue on this front,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. about the tribe's efforts to address the crisis. 

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