Washington, D.C. - Yurok Tribe in northern California has been selected as the first pilot location for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative, as part of the agency’s plans to develop tribally-led collaborative partnerships to proactively examine public safety issues – particularly those involving missing endangered children.
Utilizing virtual and in-person meetings beginning in January 2023, the initiative brings together personnel from Yurok Tribe and USMS to share information, identify goals, and develop strategies for improving public safety for Yurok Tribe, its members, and the broader community.
“It is my sincere hope that by dedicating resources in Indian Country and partnering with the Yurok Tribe, U.S. Marshals will help address the problem of missing children from the Yurok Tribe and assist with other public safety initiatives, such as ensuring that registered sex offenders in the area are compliant with their statutory requirements,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Ronald L. Davis. “We are fully committed to supporting the Yurok Tribe’s efforts to keep their communities safe.”
“The Yurok Tribe is extremely grateful to partner with the US Marshals Service on this important and timely initiative,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “The knowledge and tools we will gain from this unique partnership will significantly increase our capacity to keep our community safe.”
The Initiative may involve a wide range of activities, depending on the priorities of the Tribe. These may include training on missing child investigations, investigative support for Yurok Tribal Law Enforcement, data analysis, public outreach, or other efforts with the USMS Sex Offender Investigations Branch, regional missing child coordinator and local deputy U.S. marshals.
Tribal and USMS personnel recently met to discuss the newly formed partnership and potential collaborations on projects pertaining to sex offender registration and enforcement, missing children and fugitives from justice. After the in-person meeting, USMS connected the Tribe with staff from other Department of Justice components, including the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women. As a result of the partnership with USMS, the Tribe has also met with representatives from NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Yurok Tribe is a leader on criminal justice issues in Indian Country and has done specific work on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. USMS personnel attended a Violence Against Women Act roundtable meeting in late September 2022 attended by Yurok Tribal Court Judge Abby Abinanti, who provided valuable feedback about the MMIP Initiative that USMS was already planning. USMS personnel then attended the 1st Annual Northern California Tribal Policy Summit on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, hosted by Yurok Tribe, and had the opportunity to interact with Yurok Tribe personnel about their ongoing efforts. The longstanding work of Yurok Tribe, combined with these newly-forged relationships, led to the selection of Yurok Tribe as the first pilot site.