Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a new agreement between the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affair during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, DC on Thursday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The Justice Department announced a new agreement Thursday aiming to improve law enforcement efforts, particularly criminal investigations, in Indian Country.
Under the agreement, the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs will update guidelines for providing public safety services on tribal lands, coordinate investigations, share resources to solve open cases and create resolutions to ongoing issues, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit.
"The Department of Justice is committed to working with the Department of the Interior to investigate Indian Country crimes, including reports of missing or murdered Indigenous people, quickly, effectively and respectfully. We are grateful to the Tribes that provided input into this new policy," said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
The agreement comes as the U.S. government grapples with an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people.
A disproportionate number of victims of violent crime on indigenous land are women. The BIA reports 84% of American Indian and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. This equates to about 1.5 million women. About 56% experienced sexual violence.
In 2016 there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, according to the National Crime Information Center. Only 116 of those cases were registered under missing persons databases from the Justice Department.
"Interagency coordination is absolutely critical given the complexities of jurisdiction in tribal communities. This agreement supports an all-of-government approach to addressing federal responsibilities and tribal needs in Indian Country," said Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland for Indian Affairs.
"All federal agencies share a treaty and trust responsibility to protect tribal sovereignty and revitalize tribal communities. This partnership will further support our efforts to keep Native people safe in their homes and communities."
The new agreement will work to fix the lack of communication between agencies, requiring missing indigenous people to be entered into the National Crime Information Center, National Incident-Based Reporting and other federal criminal databases. DNA information will also be entered when appropriate.
The FBI will assume the lead role in investigations in shootings involving law enforcement officers and in-custody deaths.
About 75% of FBI investigations in Indian Country are death investigations, physical and sexual abuse of a child, violent assault and rape cases. There are currently about 150 FBI agents assigned full-time to Indian Country.
The 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit brings leaders from 574 tribes together to discuss issues with the federal government.
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it will pay $75 million for the relocation of three tribes that are being affected by climate change. The Washington State's Quinault Indian Nation, Alaska's Newtok Village and Alaska's Native Village of Napakiak will each receive $25 million in relocation grants.