BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Twin Cities is home to the country’s first federally-funded office solely set up to address cold cases in Indian Country.
On July 27, representatives with the Trump administration’s Operation Lady Justice opened the first of seven offices dedicated to solving cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Six additional offices are slated to open in August in Rapid City, South Dakota; Billings, Montana; Nashville; Albuquerque; Phoenix and Anchorage.
“Today’s opening of the first Missing and Murdered Native Americans Cold Case office demonstrates the commitment of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force to achieving the mandate set out for it under President Trump’s Executive Order,” Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney said. “Cold cases in Indian Country will be addressed with determination and the understanding that the victims in these cases will be accorded some measure of dignity and compassion – not only for them, but for their survivors, as well.”
However, the visit was panned, both by elected officials and members of the local Indigenous community, as a glorified photo opportunity for the Trump administration and the president’s re-election campaign.
“The administration fought against tribes' flexible use of funds and delayed guidance when it came to the Paycheck Protection Program,” said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), a member of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee. “Rather than a photo op, the Trump administration should focus on following through and real action to help tribal communities in Minnesota and across the country."
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in November launching the inter-agency task force assigned to develop a response plan for the high rate of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Overseen by Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, the eight-member panel includes representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI and departments of Justice, Interior and Health and Human Services and is charged with delivering its findings within two years. The task force also includes Trent Shores, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.