Recognizing the Work of the Nation’s First Indigenous Secretary of the Interior
November is Native American History month and an opportunity to highlight the courageous and essential work of the first Indigenous Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland. Appointed by President Biden, she is addressing another pandemic: violence against Native women. In April, Secretary of the Interior Haaland announced the creation of a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS). This new endeavor will coordinate and focus federal agencies on investigations.
Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) has been a “hidden crisis” in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that homicide is the third-leading cause of death for Native women and girls between the ages of 10 and 24 and the fifth-leading cause of death for Native women between the ages of 25 and 34. According to the Indian Law Resource Center, on some reservations, Indigenous women are murdered more than ten times the national average.
In her announcement of this new federal effort to address the problem, Secretary Haaland shared: “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,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “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.”
Secretary Haaland’s commitment to address this issue will help build coordinated federal resources for investigating these crimes. It is essential work and during this month of Native American History, we congratulate her leadership and courage and commitment to end and prevent violence against Native women.