DOJ picks Minnesota as one focus site for new missing, murdered Indigenous persons program

Minnesota will get one of 10 federal attorneys focused on prevention and response to missing or murdered Indigenous persons cases under a new program.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program on Wednesday, putting 10 attorneys and coordinators in five designated regions across the country as part of the initiative.

The DOJ says the program will prioritize MMIP cases and promote public safety in Indigenous areas.

As part of the effort, five MMIP coordinators and five assistant U.S. attorneys have been tasked with providing specialized support to U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country.

The Justice Department split that personnel across the five regions of the U.S., choosing to place an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota. The other areas hosting MMIP personnel are Alaska, Arizona, eastern Washington, New Mexico, northern Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and western Michigan.

“This new program mobilizes the Justice Department’s resources to combat the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons, which has shattered the lives of victims, their families, and entire Tribal communities,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to accelerate our efforts, in partnership with Tribes, to keep their communities safe and pursue justice for American Indian and Alaska Native families.”

“These additional resources are a significant step toward strengthening our work with our Tribal communities,” Andrew M. Luger, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, added. “One of these new MMIP Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) will be placed in Minnesota. This position is in addition to four new AUSAs in our office that will focus on advancing public safety and engagement with our Tribal communities across Minnesota. For the first time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota will have a dedicated section to support the needs of our Tribal communities.”

Minnesota’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) office says Indigenous people accounted for 9% of all murdered girls and women in the state between 2010 and 2019, despite making up for just 1% of the population.

The state office was created in 2021.

Federal prosecutors say the new MMIP program aims to complement the work already being done locally and by the Justice Department’s National Native American Outreach Services Liaison, and provide continued support to regional offices on cases involving Indigenous persons.