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Not One More: Findings and Recommendations of the Not Invisible Act
The cover page to “Not One More: Findings and Recommendations of the Not Invisible Act Commission” features an image of the Honoring our Medicine Paddle Blanket that was created following a canoe journey among tribes and First Nations in the Pacific Northwest in 2018. Source: Not Invisible Act Commission, November 2023
‘Not One More’: Commission delivers report on missing, murdered and trafficked in Indian Country
Friday, November 3, 2023

A national commission of federal and tribal experts is calling for a “Decade of Action and Healing” to help address the crisis of missing, murdered and trafficked people in Indian Country.

In a 212-page report delivered to the Joe Biden administration on Wednesday, the Not Invisible Act Commission said federal agencies, tribal governments and relevant organizations must take action, together, on behalf of missing, murdered and trafficked individuals. Only through effective partnerships can healing occur, the 30-plus member body stated.

“With each passing day, more and more American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons are victimized due to inadequate prevention and response to the MMIP and HT crisis, the commission stated, referring to missing and murdered Indigenous people (MMIP) and human trafficking (HT).

“Our recommendations encompass actions that must be undertaken without delay to provide AI/AN people and communities with the same sense of safety and security that other communities in the United States take for granted,” the commission continued.

The report, titled “Not One More: Findings and Recommendations of the Not Invisible Act Commission,” follows more than a year of work among federal officials, tribal leaders, law enforcement personnel, service providers, family members of missing and murdered relatives and survivors of violence in Indian Country. The group hosted eight in-person and virtual hearings from July 2022 through September 2023 and took testimony from more than 260 people affected by the crisis.

According to the commission, chronic underfunding, jurisdictional loopholes and lack of coordination are among the major reasons Native people continue to go missing, murdered and trafficked. As a result, victims, survivors and their families often don’t receive the healing and justice to which they are entitled, the report stated.

“At best we are invisible, at worst, we are disposable,” Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (D) of Minnesota, a citizen of the White Earth Nation, said during a commission meeting in Minneapolis, the report stated.

The true extent of the MMIP and HT crisis is unknown due to inadequate and inaccurate data pertaining to American Indians and Alaska Native victims, the commission added. The report calls primarily on the federal government to take the lead in improving the ways in which information is collected by law enforcement agencies, tribes and organizations across Indian Country.

“We must make sure that members of our community get the same response as someone with blonde hair and blue eyes in the city would receive,” Amber Kanazbah Crotty, an elected delegate on the Navajo Nation Council, said at a commission meeting in Arizona, the report stated.

And special attention must be paid to Alaska, the commission asserted. The remote nature of Native villages, as well as the historic neglect of their communities, has created a “legal no-man’s land” when it comes to tribes in the 49th state, the report noted.

“The legal barriers and forced acceptance of violence perpetrated against Native women and men has its origins in this conquest of Native peoples by Russia,” the commission stated. “An outstanding characteristic of this conquest was the physical and cultural genocide of Alaska Native women.”

Through passage of the Not Invisible Act in 2020, the commission was tasked by the U.S. Congress to develop recommendations addressing a wide range of MMIP and HT issues. As the group established subcommittees to focus on six major topic areas, inadequate funding was found to be a common problem, affecting everything from programs for victim and families to broadband and wireless network services in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

“While nearly 300 billion dollars of foreign aid was given to foreign nations from 2013-2018, domestic Tribal nations continue to be neglected and underfunded,” the report stated. “Ultimately, federal funding for Tribal communities should be truly comprehensive and address the buildout of unmet essential utilities and core infrastructure needs in Tribal communities.”

Another common problem across topic areas was criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, as far back as 1978 and as recently as 2022, have prevented tribes from investigating, prosecuting and punishing wrongdoers on their lands, the commission stated.

“We can criticize our Tribal governments, but they don’t have the authority the federal government does,” a witness at a commission meeting in Montana said, according to the report. “We have to fully restore the jurisdiction of our Tribal governments.”

Overall, the commission offered dozens of recommendations in each of the six topic areas, plus another 16 for Alaska, bringing the total number to more than 310. By law, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice must respond — in writing — to the recommendations within 90 calendar days from the issuance of the report on November 1.

“I am so grateful to the members of the Not Invisible Act Commission for the time and effort they have given to this work and this report over the past two years. Indian Country will be safer, and lives will be saved, because of this Commission’s work,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna who is the first Native person to serve in a presidential cabinet.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community,” said Haaland, who was a co-sponsor of the Not Invisible Act when she served in the U.S. House of Representatives. “Crimes against Indigenous peoples have long been underfunded and ignored, rooted in the deep history of intergenerational trauma that has affected our communities since colonization. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations, which will help us continue to galvanize attention and resources toward these tragic epidemics.”

“These recommendations will play an important role in our shared work to address the violence Tribal communities face,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland, who leads the Department of Justice. “I am grateful to the Commissioners for approaching this critical and difficult work with the urgency and thoughtfulness it deserves. The Justice Department is committed to working with the Department of Interior, Congress, and our state, local, and Tribal partners to address the Commission’s recommendations and respond to the public safety challenges facing American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Members of Congress who co-sponsored the Not Invisible Act also welcomed the completion of the report.

“All Native people deserve safety and access to justice, but for too long Native communities have faced a reality of violence and victimization,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a news release on Thursday. “I was honored to work with advocates to help usher into law the Not Invisible Act, and thank all of the commissioners for their hard work and the extraordinary amount of time and energy involved in developing these recommendations. I look forward to reviewing the Commission’s recommendations and continuing our work to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous people.”

“Protecting Tribal communities in Nevada is one of my top priorities in the Senate, and I am grateful to see the Not Invisible Act Commission recommending a comprehensive and sustained response to address the MMIW epidemic,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), another member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said on Thursday. “There’s so much more to be done to address this crisis, and I look forward to continue working to ensure these recommendations are implemented to deliver justice and resources to Native communities.”

The administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, announced the members of the Not Invisible Act Commission on May 5, 2022. The announcement coincided with National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day last year.

The naming of the commission took nine months, leading to criticism from key lawmakers, tribal leaders and advocates for Native women. The commission itself was forced to stop work for three months, requiring another act of Congress for the work to resume, the report noted.

According to the commission, the final report was adopted “in its totality” by every member of the panel. However, the document states that “each Commissioner may not agree equally with all recommendations and have reservations about some.”

Of the 300-plus recommendations, only one was subject to a written dissent. Commission member Annita Lucchesi, who is identified in the document as being of “Cheyenne Descent,” said a request for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study into law enforcement officer violence towards American Indian and Alaska Native people was removed from the final report.

According to Lucchesi, the request was changed at a meeting during which she was not present. In her written dissent, she described herself as a “trafficking survivor” who was reluctant to report her victimization to law enforcement, which she said was a common occurrence in Indian Country.

Lucchesi, in the past, has said she was trafficked while attending the University of California, Berkeley, and, later, at the University of Washington. During a virtual MMIP session hosted by the Donald Trump administration in June 2020, she publicly declared herself to be a survivor of victimization at the hands of law enforcement and others.
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