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The federal government releases their response to a 2023 nation-wide report on the MMIP crisis

Panels members, including Northern Arapaho tribal member Jordan Dresser (far right), stand for an opening prayer at a Not Invisible Act Commission listening session at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center in July 2023.
Amy Lynn Nelson
Billings Gazette
Panels members, including Northern Arapaho tribal member Jordan Dresser (far right), stand for an opening prayer at a Not Invisible Act Commission listening session at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center in July 2023.

In 2020, Congress passed the Not Invisible Act to help address the Missing and Murdered Persons Crisis (MMIP). The bill formed a federal commission made up of tribal leaders, federal agencies, families, and survivors, who were tasked with developing recommendations on how best to address the crisis. The Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) responded to these recommendations in early March.

The Not Invisible Act Commission report

After conducting seven listening sessions across the country, the Not Invisible Act Commission published their final 212-page report last November, titled “Not One More: Findings and Recommendations of the Not Invisible Act Commission.” According to the report, almost 600 people attended those hearings and 260 individuals gave testimony to the Commission.

The document calls for the U.S. government to declare a “decade of action and healing” dedicated to addressing the MMIP crisis. The report emphasizes the importance of increased funding, both for tribal law enforcement and for victim support, as well as policy reform, action-oriented programs, and action-oriented programs focused on safety, justice and prevention.

“The United States government’s failure to fulfill its trust responsibilities to Tribal nations, coupled with historic policies that sought to disconnect American Indian/Alaska Native people from their land, language, and culture, have given rise to a public health, public safety, and justice crisis in Tribal communities,” states the report’s opening Executive Summary.

The federal response 

By law, federal officials were required to respond to the report within 90 days. The DOI and the DOJ responded to the report in early March, weeks after that 90 day window.

The more than 200-page response from the two federal agencies outlines their commitment to continuing to work with Tribal communities to find solutions to the crisis. It outlines six overarching concepts, which include data collection and reporting, jurisdictional structure, public safety resources and agency collaboration.

Enrolled Northern Arapaho tribal member Jordan Dresser was part of the 36-member Not Invisible Act Commission. He emphasized the report’s assessment that more coordination between different agencies is crucial.

“The biggest takeaway I have is just the fact that a lot of our resources are not streamlined. It's like a scattershot. So when a family is going through something like that, I think they sometimes don't know where to turn to,” he said.

The response states that the DOJ has expanded support to tribes through grants for community planning, outreach and victim service program development. Funding for victim and/or witness programs largely comes from the DOJ’s Crime Victims Fund, which is administered by their Office of Justice Programs and Office for Victims of Crime. The report states that those two offices also provide related training for tribal members.

Dresser, a former chairman for the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said providing more trauma-informed training for those working to address the crisis is an important next step.

“I think that starts from everybody, including law enforcement and including local people who want to do that different work as well. It's having the right training to properly deal with people who have been through trauma,” he said.

Dresser said the fact that the Not Invisible Commission was created and that the report was even written in the first place is powerful. He hopes that changes happen on the federal level, and trickle down to the state and local level too.

“It's a really big thing, the fact that Deb Haaland with the Department of Interior is not only saying ‘This is the [Not Invisible Act Commission] report,’ but also saying, ‘Hey, these have a lot of recommendations that need to be implemented.’ Her saying that is a really a huge first step. I hope and I wish that all these different agencies can get on the same page with everything,” he said.

The response also states that the DOI and the DOJ will schedule government-to-government consultations and more listening sessions with tribal nations moving forward.

Copyright 2024 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Hannah Habermann