A year after Mary Johnson went missing, federal officials are finally taking action on America’s missing Indigenous peoples crisis.

Johnson, who was 39 years old at the time and enrolled in school citizen of the Tulalip Tribe, last seen in the reserve on 25 November 2020.

Although family members posted flyers, posted billboards on the local interstate, and reward for information recommended by the FBI, Johnson, like many other missing indigenous women in the United States, has yet to be found.

“At this point we’re information-driven, any information we receive is tracked, but the potential customer,” said Wayne Schakel, a detective sergeant with the Tulalip Tribal Police Department. It got harder and harder to find the further we went,” said Wayne Schakel, a detective sergeant with the Tulalip Tribal Police Department.

For years, families and activists have demanded that authorities direct more attention and resources to cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women, arguing that the schools Their case is often ignored or rejected. Federal and state officials have recently publicly acknowledged that there is a “crisis of violence” against Native Americans, and have launched efforts to address it, but advocates for that their response was not enough.

Mary Johnson, an indigenous woman, went missing almost a year ago.  While the FBI recently offered a reward, activists say it's not enough
Annita Lucchesi, CEO of Institute of Sovereign Authorities, an organization that has been cataloging the disappearances and murders of Native Americans for several years.
Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directed federal agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Interior, and Homeland Security, to create a 240-day strategy to address this “crisis of violence” against Native Americans.

“For too long, justice has been obscured for many Native American victims, survivors, and families. The complexity of criminal jurisdiction and limited resources have kept many injustices unsolved. decide,” Biden said in the order.

The president also said that “previous executive action has not achieved enough changes to reverse the epidemic.”

Nearly 5,300 Native American and Alaskan Indian girls and women were reported missing last year, data from the National Crime Information Center shows. Of those, 578 were reported as “active” at the end of the year.

Advocates and experts say those numbers aren’t comprehensive, and some groups, like the Institute of Sovereign Agencies, have taken it upon themselves to collect the data as a way to raise awareness and force agencies to Law enforcement must be held accountable.

Lucchesi, a descendant of the Cheyenne Tribe, said the main problem driving this crisis is a lack of empathy for victims from both community members and law enforcement.

“Families still have the same needs as they had two, five years ago. Law enforcement is still ignoring them. Cases remain unresolved and violence continues to occur. out,” she said.

Federal officials are stepping up efforts

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples is currently in the spotlight, with federal officials announcing actions to increase resources to address the issue.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would allocate $800,000 to the National System for Missing and Unknown Persons (NamUs), to provide outreach services, investigative and forensic assistance to cases involving Native Americans and Alaskans.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would dedicate more than $90 million in funding to create a commission dedicated to addressing the missing or murdered Indigenous peoples crisis.

President Joe Biden last week signed an executive order to help improve public safety and justice for Native Americans.

“The Department of Justice has already begun piloting these plans, driven by community need, led by Tribes, and supported by federal law enforcement. We hope that they do. I will deliver meaningful responses to missing or murdered Indigenous cases and serve as Garland said at the Tribal States Summit at the White House last week.

Biden’s order and Justice Department financial commitments come just weeks after The Government Accountability Office has released an analysis federal response to this violent crisis. The report indicates that federal officials have not done enough to address the problem and have not fully implemented two laws aimed at combating it.
Law, Savanna’s actions and the Not Invisible Act, which was enacted in October 2020 and requires the Departments of Justice and Home Affairs to take various actions to increase coordination, training, and data collection. The report found that the agencies took some initial steps, but missed the statutory deadline.

While there are four federal databases that include some information on missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, the report’s authors did not find comprehensive data on the crisis, which makes the Federal officials don’t know the full extent of the problem.

Deb Haaland forms unit to investigate Indigenous murders and disappearances
Within one month after being confirmed, Interior Minister Deb Haaland has taken steps to address this crisis of violence against Indigenous peoples.

In April, she announced the creation of a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to “help place the full weight of the federal government” to investigate cases and coordinate resources between agencies. Union and State of India.

At the state level, legislators in Arizona, Wisconsin, Utah and several other states over the past three years have created task forces or set up offices to combat crimes against Native Americans. .

In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt signed the law of Ida earlier this year to secure federal funding to set up a local office of the Liaison Office for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples.

The law is named after Ida Beard, 29, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes who went missing in 2015 and has yet to be found.

Lucchesi and other advocates welcome raising awareness of the issue but remain skeptical whether their efforts will help overcome the myriad challenges that families face when a loved one goes missing. including jurisdictional and bureaucratic issues that often slow down investigations.

“What’s the point of creating (new) initiatives to tackle this crisis when the laws they’ve passed have yet to be implemented?” Lucchesi said.

CNN’s Christina Carrega contributed to this report.


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