In Montana, Attorney General Announces Missing And Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative
U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced a new initiative to combat the missing and murdered indigenous persons (MMIP) issue in Indian Country Friday on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Barr met privately with tribal, state and federal law enforcement, as well as officials from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Friday morning. Later in the day, he publicly announced the Justice Department’s plan at the CSKT tribal council chamber, outlining the new three-pronged initiative aimed at combating the MMIP issue.
“We are going to proceed and hire, in fact we’re hiring now, MMIP coordinators for 11 United States Attorney’s offices that have significant Indian country caseloads,” Barr said.
Coordinators will set up protocols for special FBI response teams. Montana’s coordinator has already been hired.
“A tribal, local or state law enforcement agency can request expert assistance from the FBI-based on specific circumstances of the missing person case, and the FBI will have a variety of resources available for deployment depending on the circumstances."
Barr said that the Justice Department will also begin analyzing all available missing persons databases and reporting practices to get a sense of other actions that could help solve cases. This comes as Savanna’s Act passed out of committee this week and is headed for the U.S. Senate Floor. The bill would require the Attorney General’s office to take many of the actions Barr talked about, but he said the Justice Department wanted to get out ahead of the bill.
Tribal officials said they were happy action was being taken but Kootenai Culture Committee Director Vernon Finley mentioned how the lack of action in the past has made Native people feel undervalued compared to their white counterparts who go missing.
Finley asked “Our people, the value that they feel in our country when they see the type of coverage and they see the type of activity that happens over one person over 1,000. Are we one-thousandth less?”
Barr did not provide a clear timeline for the Justice Department’s efforts, but said they would likely inform future actions aimed at combating violence against Native-Americans, something he said President Donald Trump is also invested in pursuing.