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An Oglala Lakota woman will lead a position to coordinate resources to find missing and murdered Indigenous people.
The South Dakota Attorney General’s office is announcing the hiring of two women to address the issue, as well as human trafficking.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Lee Strubinger has more.
Indigenous people make up a disproportionate number of missing person cases—about 60% in South Dakota, alone. Many of those cases can get lost between jurisdictions.
Allison Morrisette’s new job is to bring the state and various tribal nations together to solve those cases.
Morrisette, who worked in the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, says the position is needed.
“Being able to capitalize off of the past relationships that I’ve built within the Native community and across the state, I’m excited to network more and to get organizations, law enforcement agencies, non-profits, everyone to the table so we can target this issue.”
After a series of delays tied to funding a Native nonprofit announced it would fund the first three years of the position in the state. Democratic Representative Peri Pourier brought a bill to establish the position nearly two years ago. She says the position is off to a promising start.
“There’s a lot of hope, no pressure, but there’s a lot of hope in this position. There’s many people across South Dakota who want to see this position successful.”
Attorney General Mark Vargo is also announcing the hiring of a human trafficking coordinator. He says Mary Beth Holzwarth will build on the efforts of various survivor networks for those who’ve been trafficked.
Holzwarth spent 13 years with an organization dedicated to preventing child sexual assault.
Vargo says the two positions are linked.
“We all face some of the same problems and we have to face them together. It is my hope that these two women will be a huge step toward ensuring that we’re united, and we’re coordinated and that we’re doing everything that we can for our citizens.”
Vargo says the next step is to establish an advisory group of state and tribal law enforcement, leaders and community members who are closest to the problem.
In California, tribal leaders are joining State Rep. James Ramos (Serrano-Cahuilla/D-CA) and law enforcement Wednesday to learn about the implementation of a new law, which alerts the public when a Native person goes missing.
The Feather Alert notification system is similar to the AMBER or Silver Alerts, which are used when children are abducted or missing or when seniors are missing.
The new Feather Alert system is intended to help law enforcement act more quickly in notifying the public and produce leads to help find missing individuals.
The discussion will be held in Coarsegold, CA between 9am-3pm PT and is available to join via Zoom.
The Interior Department has announced new policies and procedures that aim to make consultation between the federal government and tribes more interactive and transparent.
Under U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), the new policy will require department staff training prior to tribal consultation.
The new policy also outlines specific goals for consultation with Alaska Native Corporations.
The announcement follows a few others from the Interior Department in the last month regarding the allocation of millions of dollars in climate change funding to tribes nationwide.
Bryan Newland (Ojibwe) is the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.
”These investments first and foremost reflect president Biden’s commitment to Indian country, but it’s also a reflection of Secretary Haaland’s leadership here.”
At least two reports from the Government Accountability office in the last four years have chided federal agencies for inadequate consultation with tribes.
The Interior Department’s announcement was made during the 2022 Tribal Nations Summit, held last week in Washington D.C.
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