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Deb Haaland creates unit to investigate killings and disappearances of Indigenous people

April 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 63.4%. 2 min read.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a new unit within Bureau of Indian Affairs that plans to tackle the decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans.

(CNN)Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a new unit within Bureau of Indian Affairs that plans to tackle the decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans.

"Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated. "

Their families and activists say the cases are often disregarded by law enforcement, which has forced them to bring the spotlight on the issue through social media campaigns, marches and protests.

The new unit is expected to "help put the full weight of the federal government" to investigate the cases and coordinate resources among federal agencies and Indian country, according to the Department of Interior.

About 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons have been recorded across the United States by the National Crime Information Center, and 2,700 homicide cases have been reported to the federal government's Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Annita Lucchesi, a descendant of the Cheyenne tribe and executive director of the Sovereign Bodies Institute, has been tabulating missing and murdered cases for the past few years.

The Indigenous-led research organization has documented 2,306 missing Native American women and girls in the US since the 1900s -- and about 58% of those cases were homicides, the group said in a report last year.

Lucchesi said hopes the new initiative led by the Interior Department is "beneficial to the families, pushes cases towards justice and really holds law enforcement agencies accountable for their complicity in the issue. "

Previous efforts to address the crisis have not been successful in the eyes of victims' families, Lucchessi said, because "law enforcement just don't investigate as they should and the justice system doesn't prosecute as they said. "

Last summer, the task force also established the first of seven teams across the country dedicated to reviewing cold cases, according to a report of the task force's progress.

"Whether it's a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands-on deck," Haaland said.

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