Frequently Asked Questions
The name stems from the artwork “Lady Justice” created by Derek Grant "D.G." Smalling. Smalling, an artist from the Choctaw Nation, created the artwork during a National Native American Heritage Month event held by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs in November 2018. The painting has had a place of honor at DOI since then and was present at the White House Oval Office during the signing ceremony for Executive Order 13898, which established the Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Now known as Operation Lady Justice, the Task Force uses the painting as the symbol for its work. As noted by Tara Sweeney, then-Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, “she carries a shield of inter-locking arms as a symbolism of a battle standard to protect our people. Under her shield we can reclaim our Native communities.” Artist Smalling noted that it is “an absolute honor to be affiliated with this most excellent multi-agency law enforcement initiative for Indian Country, my Choctaw Nation, and my family.”
Executive Order 13898 names the co-chairs of the OLJ as the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) or their designees. Executive Order 13898 also describes the membership of the task force as “the Task Force shall be composed wholly of full-time, or permanent part-time, officers or employees of the Federal Government and shall include the following members:
- (i) the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
- (ii) the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior;
- (iii) the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, Department of Justice;
- (iv) the Director of the Office of Justice Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior;
- (v) the Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee;
- (vi) the Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, Department of Health and Human Services; and
- (vii) such representatives of other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the Co-Chairs may, from time to time, designate."
At the end of the first year of OLJ, the Task Force added additional members:
- The Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), Department of Justice;
- The Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Department of Justice;
- The Director of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), Department of Justice;
- The Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Department of Homeland Security;
- The Director of Indian Health Services (IHS), Department of Health and Human Services; and
- The Director of the Office of Native American Programs (ONAP), Department of Housing and Urban Development
To carry out the mission and function of the Task Force, numerous federal staff and contractors across the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Interior, Department of Justice, and other agencies are contributing to the Task Force efforts.
Executive Order 13898 requires that all Task Force members be “full-time or permanent part-time, officers or employees of the Federal Government.” (E.O. 13898, Section 3.) This is because OLJ is not a federal advisory committee (which are governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act) designed to make specific recommendations to the federal government, but rather a federal working group gathered to accomplish specific set tasks. The Task Force is, however, required to seek Tribal input via Tribal Consultations and Listening Sessions, all of which are open to the public and enjoy participation from Tribal governments, organizations, and individuals. See EO, Section 4(a)(i).
You can email Operation Lady Justice with any questions or comments at [email protected].
Under Executive Order 13898, OLJ “shall terminate 2 years after the date of this order, unless otherwise directed by the President” or November 26, 2021.
There are several initiatives being undertaken by the federal government in this area, but all are working together to address the issues.
Attorney General’s Initiative on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. On November 22, 2019, then-Attorney General William P. Barr launched the Attorney General’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative (AG’s MMIP Initiative). The collaborative effort is steered by the U.S. Attorneys on the Native American Issue Subcommittee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ), with support from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The AG’s MMIP Initiative contains three parts:
- Establishing MMIP coordinators in each U.S. Attorney’s Office in 11 states with significant tribal populations: Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Utah, Nevada, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington. Recognizing that local circumstances vary, each MMIP coordinator is tasked to work closely with federal, tribal, state and local agencies to develop common protocols and procedures for responding to reports of missing and murdered Indigenous people in their respective states;
- Rapid deployment of specialized FBI teams that will provide expert assistance, upon request by a federal, tribal, state or local law enforcement agency, in any appropriate missing native persons case; and
- Performing comprehensive data analysis to identify opportunities to improve missing persons data.
President’s Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. On November 26, 2019, the President signed Executive Order 13898, forming the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (Operation Lady Justice, OLJ). OLJ was tasked to do the following:
- Conduct appropriate consultations with tribal governments on the scope and nature of the issues regarding missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives;
- Develop model protocols and procedures to apply to new and unsolved cases of missing or murdered persons in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, including best practices for:
- improving the way law enforcement investigators and prosecutors respond to the high volume of such cases, and to the investigative challenges that might be presented in cases involving female victims;
- collecting and sharing data among various jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies; and
- better use of existing criminal databases, such as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) including the National DNA Index System (NDIS);
- Establish a multi-disciplinary, multi-jurisdictional team including representatives from tribal law enforcement and the Departments of Justice and the Interior to review cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives;
- Address the need for greater clarity concerning roles, authorities, and jurisdiction throughout the lifecycle of cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives by:
- developing and publishing best practices guidance for use by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement in cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, to include best practices related to communication with affected families from initiation of an investigation through case resolution or closure;
- facilitating formal agreements or arrangements among Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement to promote maximally cooperative, trauma-informed responses to cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives;
- developing and executing an education and outreach campaign for communities that are most affected by crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives to identify and reduce such crime; and
- developing, in partnership with NamUs, a public-awareness campaign to educate both rural and urban communities about the needs of affected families and resources that are both needed and available.
Department of Interior's Missing and Murdered Unit. On April 1, 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the formation of a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The MMU will help put the full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases and marshal law enforcement resources across federal agencies and throughout Indian Country.
As noted, these three initiatives work closely together, given the often-overlapping missions.
Yes. There are two databases that contain information about missing American Indian and Alaska Native persons. The first is the FBI Criminal Justice Information System’s (CJIS) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. This is a law enforcement-only database within which law enforcement officers may enter missing person reports. Under the Crime Control Act of 1990, the FBI annually publishes an NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics report, which is publicly available at www.fbi.gov. The report summarizes the total number of missing person reports entered into, and removed from, the Missing Person File during each calendar year. Statistical breakdowns of the missing person report totals by age, sex, race and entry criteria are presented. In addition, the report summarizes the total number of unidentified persons entered into, and removed from, the Unidentified Person File during each calendar year, broken down by entry criteria. Read the 2020 data compilation.
The second database is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), housed within DOJ’s National Institute of Justice. This is a public database, which also has a secured, law enforcement side as well. Family members of missing persons can enter and search case information, and connect with criminal justice professionals to assist in the search for their missing loved ones. NamUs publishes monthly trend data of American Indian and Alaska Native missing person cases.