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Federal Missing And Murdered Indigenous Cold Case Office Opens

Patrick Semansky/AP

The U.S. Interior Department has opened the first of seven offices devoted to unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.




Federal officials opened a cold-case office in Minnesota Monday, and locations in Phoenix, Albuquerque and four other cities will follow next month. Special agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal law enforcement and the FBI will be responsible for investigations, data sharing and other duties.

Advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous people say a lack of communication among federal, state and tribal agencies is one of the biggest roadblocks in reducing disproportionately high levels of violence against tribal members, especially women and girls.

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, there are more than 1,400 unsolved missing-person cases in the U.S. involving Native Americans. It isn’t known, however, exactly how many Indigenous people have gone missing or have been murdered in the U.S. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, in 2016 the Justice Department logged only 2% of the more than 5,700 reported cases in its national database.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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