President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order establishing a task force on missing and murdered American Indians and natives of Alaska.
The “Operation Lady Justice Executive Order” was signed in the Oval Office amid Native American leaders, including Kevin DuPuis, chairman of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and AJ Not Afraid, chairman of Crow Nation.
“It is my honor to sign an executive order … to address a tragedy facing Native American communities—the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska natives, in particular women and children. Its a tremendous problem. Its been going on for a long time. Many, many decades, beyond that, and were going to address it,” Trump said before signing the order.
More than 5,000 Native American women and girls were reported missing in a single year and some are still missing, Trump said. One study showed Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the average American, he said.
“This should have happened many years ago,” he added.
The Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, co-chaired by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Attorney General William Barr, will do several things, including engaging with tribal communities on the scope of the issue, developing protocols for new and unsolved cases, and establish a team to review cold cases.
Trump said the new strategy will feature aggressive measures to make tribal communities safer. “This has never been done before,” he said.
Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said at the signing: “we cannot have this happening anymore.”