OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s an issue that has been in the shadows for years.
For years, Native American activists have been calling for more to be done to help solve cases of missing or murdered Indigenous people.
The murder rate for Native American women is more than 10 times the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Missing and murdered Indigenous people is an epidemic,” said Carmen Harvie, president of the Oklahoma state chapter of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
Just last year, Harvie told KFOR that there were 500 Native Americans in Oklahoma who are missing or their murder is unsolved.
In November 2021, Ida’s Law went into effect.
It allows the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain federal funding and coordinate efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous persons in Oklahoma.
Now, changes are being made at the national level.
On Friday, federal officials announced that there are new guidelines for handling cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous persons.
“For years, Native Americans have been victimized by violent crime and mourned a murdered or missing loved one,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Troester. “Addressing these issues is a top priority for my office and the Department of Justice. Throughout the Western District of Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have strong working relationships across law enforcement and the Tribal nations in our district. These guidelines will help us to further strengthen those relationships and coordinate efforts to better address Native Americans who are victimized by violence or have been reported missing.”
In 2020, Congress passed Savanna’s Act, which directs the U.S. Attorney’s Office to develop regionally appropriate guidelines to respond to cases involving American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The guidelines include important provisions designed to improve law enforcement and justice protocols, enhance cooperation between agencies, and address jurisdictional issues.
On April 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a “Missing in Oklahoma 2023” event will be held at the University of Central Oklahoma Forensic Science Institute, located at 801 E. 2nd St. in Edmond.
At the event, families and friends of missing persons may complete a missing persons report for law enforcement, provide additional investigative leads, enter the missing person into the NamUs database, and provide family reference DNA samples to compare to potential remains.