Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Launches Unit to Investigate Missing and Murdered Native Americans

Deb Haaland
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Deb Haaland was confirmed to her position in March and became the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary and the second to serve in the Cabinet, after Republican former vice president and Kaw Nation citizen Charles Curtis.

A new Bureau of Indian Affairs unit has been launched by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in order to investigate the thousands of unsolved murders and missing Native Americans, ABC News reported.

The new sector was announced Thursday and will be called the “Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU)” and the department says in a statement that they will “provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” Haaland said in a statement. “The new MMU 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.”

The statement about the launch of the new unit, which was posted on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website, stated that approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). They added that approximately 2,700 cases of murder and nonnegligent homicide offenses have been reported to the Federal Government’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. 

This new unit carries on the work that the task force known as “Operation Lady Justice (OLJ)” began, which was formed in 2019 as a way to pursue the unsolved cases of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“Whether it’s a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands-on deck,” Secretary Haaland continued. “We are fully committed to assisting Tribal communities with these investigations, and the MMU will leverage every resource available to be a force-multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations.”