New DOJ coordinator to shed light on missing and murdered indigenous person cases

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The U.S. Department of Justice launched a new national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans that includes hiring 11 state coordinators to handle cases.

U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald announced earlier this week the appointment of Christopher Boeckers to serve as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Coordinator for the District of Minnesota.

Boeckers served as a Special Agent working in Indian Country and violent crime matters with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 20 years.

“It’s so important that we build relationships and have open and full dialogue about what’s going on,” MacDonald said.

A 2018 Urban Indian Health Institute Report found nationally more than 5,700 cases of indigenous women missing or murdered but only 116 were logged into the Department of Justice missing persons databases.

MacDonald said the coordinator will support investigations into missing and murdered persons, collect data in the region and work to establish plans with tribal groups to share information with federal and state authorities.

“There’s not the appropriate information-sharing networks that are set up to get the right information to the right people at the right time, that’s part of what these MMIP coordinators are going to be doing is setting up those protocols to be able to make sure we’re sharing information and everyone knows where to report,” MacDonald said.

“My hope is that this position can really build some strong relationships with our tribal communities both on reservations and off,” said Nicole Matthews, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition.

“Many of our community members are taking it into their own hands —we’re searching for our relatives on our own,” Matthews said.

There are several missing persons cases Matthews hopes this new coordinator can shed light on, including Sheila St. Clair.

It’s been almost five years since St. Clair went missing after last being seen at a Duluth apartment complex bound for the White Earth Reservation.

“The community misses her, her family misses her we’d like some answers,” said friend and activist Shawn Carr. “If she isn’t, there are things we need to do in our culture to put her to rest.”

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