ANCHORAGE – Thursday the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska joined with communities across Alaska in shining a spotlight on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day.
“Generations of Alaska Natives have experienced violence or mourned a murdered or missing loved one for far too long,” said U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker of the District of Alaska. “Today we reaffirm our commitment to Tribes across Alaska to help find lasting solutions to the MMIP challenge in our state. Working in partnership with Tribal, federal, state and local agencies, we can and must find a way to address the disproportionately high number of missing or murdered Indigenous people as well as help bring answers and justice for the victims and families.”
U.S. Attorney Tucker spent the day in Kotzebue joining the Maniilaq Association and Northwest Arctic Tribes in recognizing National MMIP Awareness Day. She also joined the MMIP Working Group in listening to the local concerns and needs.
“The FBI commemorates Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, recognizing the violence that affects Alaska Native and American Indian communities throughout the nation, and reaffirms our commitment to enhancing public safety in those communities,” said Antony Jung, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Anchorage Field Office. “Today’s observance reminds us of the importance of this critical mission and the challenging work still to be done, as we are fully committed to continued and increased collaboration with our federal, state, local and tribal counterparts to support those impacted by these horrific crimes, and to protect those we serve.”
“Unfortunately, an unacceptable number of Alaska’s Indigenous persons are murdered or go missing across the state, never to be heard from again. To combat this trend earlier this year, we brought back retired Alaska State Trooper Anne Sears to work as the state’s first MMIP investigator and have dedicated six major crimes investigators to rural Alaska,” stated Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell. “While there is much more work to do, know that your Alaska Department of Public Safety is dedicated to doing our part to improve the outcomes of missing and murdered Indigenous persons investigations across Alaska. Alaska’s first people deserve nothing less.”
“Many Indigenous people throughout Alaska mourn a missing or murdered loved one without clear answers. Today, we remember the victims and honor their lives,” said Anchorage Police Chief Michael Kerle. “The Anchorage Police Department remains deeply engaged with our law enforcement partners to combat the violence that impacts our communities.”
During the last year the Alaska MMIP Working Group has continued to meet every month on a wide variety of topics ranging from challenges with MMIP data to victim services to training and recruitment of law enforcement. A priority of the Working Group is participating in listening and consultation sessions with Tribes across Alaska. So far, the group has met with 170 of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized Tribes in 11 Regions. During these sessions Tribal members share their stories, experiences and needs. This input is feeding directly into the development of the Savanna’s Act Guidelines for Alaska.
Savanna’s Act directs the U.S. Department of Justice to develop guidelines to continually improve communication and coordination among the Tribal, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in response to MMIP situations. It also provides guidance on the collection, reporting and analysis of MMIP data, offers resource information for Tribal governments and provides best practices for culturally appropriate victim services and in returning a loved one home. These guidelines are evergreen with ongoing opportunities for input and recommendations.
The Departments of the Interior and Justice are working to implement the Not Invisible Act, sponsored by Secretary Haaland during her time in Congress. The law established the Not Invisible Act Commission, a cross jurisdictional advisory committee composed of law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and most importantly survivors. Today, the Department announced the Not Invisible Act Commission members.
Additionally, in March President Joe Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act of 2022 as part of a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package. This important law expands special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking and assaults on Tribal law enforcement officers on Tribal lands and supports the development of a pilot project to enhance access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages. The Office of VAWA will continue to work with Tribes to address challenges in protecting survivors and responding to offenders in their communities and encourage Tribal leaders and designees to attend the 17th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation in Anchorage in September.
If you know someone who is missing, it’s critical that you report it right away to 9-1-1 or your closest law enforcement. The first hours of someone missing can be vitally important. If you have questions about the U.S. Attorney’s Office MMIP program, please contact MMIP Program Coordinator, Ingrid Cumberlidge at [email protected] or [email protected] or call 907-271-3314.