Apr 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Haaland creates unit to "pursue justice" for missing and murdered Native Americans

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testifying before Congress in February 2021.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testifying before Congress in February 2021. Photo: Leigh Vogel/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Interior on Thursday announced the creation of a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs tasked with supporting investigations into missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Why it matters: Approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons cases have been reported to the National Crime Information Center, and about 2,700 cases of murder and nonnegligent homicide offenses have been reported to the federal government, according to the Interior Department.

Last year, then-President Trump signed a bill aimed at addressing missing and murdered Native Americans.

  • A task force was created in 2019 "to address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered people."

What they're saying: “Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.

  • "Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated," she added.
  • “The new [Missing & Murdered 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.”
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