Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has announced the creation of a commission that will investigate and seek to curtail violence against Native American women. The commission will be a joint project between the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior. Haaland earlier launched a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs which will focus on investigating cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
The commission will appoint 27 members and will be empowered to hold hearings, take testimony, and gather evidence to make recommendations to aid the government in tackling how best to address violence against Native American women and Indigenous peoples at large.
“In the United States, violence against indigenous women has reached unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in Alaska Native villages,” according to the Indian Law Resource Center. “More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence.”
The Department of Justice has acknowledged this epidemic of violence, particularly that “Most American Indian and Alaska Native adults are victims of violence,” that “American Indian and Alaska Native female victims are more likely to need services, but they are less likely to have access to those services,” and that “For American Indians and Alaska Natives, interracial violence is more prevalent than intraracial violence.”
“A lack of urgency, transparency, and coordination has hampered our country’s efforts to combat violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Haaland said in a statement. “In partnership with the Justice Department and with extensive engagement with Tribes and other stakeholders, Interior will marshal our resources to finally address the crisis of violence against Indigenous peoples.”
Haaland was a lead sponsor of the Not Invisible Act when she represented New Mexico in the House. The measure called on the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice to form a “Joint Commission on Reducing Violent Crime Against Indians.”