Murkowski Applauds Efforts to Seek Justice for Missing, Murdered Indigenous People

Interior Department Announces New Unit to Focus on Crisis

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued the following statement on the Interior Department announcement of a new Missing & Murdered Unit tasked with coordinating interagency collaboration to pursue cases of  missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

“Too many families have faced unspeakable loss as Native women have gone missing, murdered, or trafficked and let down by the complex law enforcement systems in place. Seeking justice for these women and families should never be a partisan issue, which is why I have long said that addressing the crisis must be an all hands on deck approach. In 2019, we included funding for the first time for the BIA and IHS to address these MMIW initiatives. Last Congress we made significant steps—working hand in hand with the previous administration—to elevate the crisis and improve coordination among law enforcement and provide the necessary resources to protect these women from becoming another statistic. With the passage of Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible, Congress created enduring policy to bring justice to the many Indigenous families who have fallen victim to this heartbreaking reality. I thank the Biden administration for continuing to carry the torch, build upon that momentum, and ensure that this issue remains a priority.”

Background on Senator Murkowski’s Recent Efforts:

  • December 2020 – Senator Murkowski successfully included $6.7 in the year-end funding bill for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to improve the federal response to the epidemic of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women. The bill included $2 million for cold case work, $1 million for equipment needs, $3 million to support the goals of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, and $750,000 for victim witness specialists.
  • October 2020 – President Trump signed into law Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, two bills led by Senators Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women. Specifically the bills work to combat the crisis by improving the federal government’s response through increased coordination, development of best practices, and creation of a commission on violent crime.
  • August 2020 – Senator Murkowski joined other federal, state, tribal, and local leaders, for the official opening off the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage. The Cold Case office was made possible through funding secured by Senator Murkowski in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill. Six other Cold Case offices were opened throughout the United States, including in Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Arizona. These are now called Missing & Murdered Unit offices.
  • May 2020 – Senator Murkowski joined U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) in introducing a resolution to designate May 5 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The resolution acknowledges the lack of data on the number of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and calls upon Americans to commemorate the lives of those missing and murdered and to demonstrate solidarity with the families of victims in light of those tragedies.
  • February 2020 – Senator Murkowski helped lead a Capitol Hill briefing with Senator Cortez Masto on ways to increase the safety of Native women and address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The briefing also covered other topics, including issues for PL 280 states, the implementation of 2013 special jurisdiction, and various pieces of legislation that Senator Murkowski has introduced to improve safety in rural Alaska.
  • December 2019 – For the first time ever, Senator Murkowski successfully included $6.5 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a comprehensive look at the issue of MMIW across the BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS), which includes funding for cold case work, background checks, equipment needs, training, and for the IHS regarding forensic training.


Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska