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Washington State News

U.S. Attorney’s Office Honors Native American Heritage Month and Participates in 2nd Annual Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Summit

News Release from U.S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern Dist. of Wash.

SPOKANE and YAKIMA, Wa. – Each year in November, communities across the United States celebrate National Native American Heritage Month.  During this time, the Department of Justice also acknowledges the tremendous contributions of Native American communities to the United States, including those who work hard each day to support the DOJ’s mission. In honoring our Tribal nations and heritage, we also remember the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities and obligations to strengthen Tribal sovereignty.

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Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref and her First Assistant, Richard Barker, joined Federal, State, and Tribal law enforcement, community leaders, other stakeholders, and victims at the Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force’s Second Annual Summit. During the Summit, U.S. Attorney Waldref addressed the group and provided an update on federal efforts to address the MMIWP crisis. “I want to thank the incredible leaders and community stakeholders who support the victims and families of this ongoing crisis,” U.S. Attorney Waldref stated. “As a result of your collective voices, federal, state, and Tribal governments are devoting significant resources to addressing the root causes that have led to increased numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women and people. We can honor Native American Heritage Month by recommitting to address the root causes underlying this crisis:  fentanyl, domestic violence, child abuse, illegal possession and use of firearms, illegal narcotics, and human trafficking. Our communities are safer and stronger as we join together to seek justice on behalf of those affected by this tragic crisis.”

First Assistant United States Attorney Barker, participated on a panel with representatives from the Washington State Patrol, FBI, Tribal law enforcement, and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Following the conference, First Assistant Barker reiterated the need for prosecutors and law enforcement to build trust with marginalized communities: “Federal, State, and Tribal law enforcement must not only work together to improve public safety in Tribal Nations, but we must also work together to earn the community’s trust. Although it will take time, we can earn community members’ trust by actively participating in community events, attending listening sessions, engaging with victims, supporting law enforcement, and honoring Tribal culture and tradition.”

More information on Native American Heritage Month is available at https://www.nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/. Additional information regarding the Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force is available at https://www.atg.wa.gov/washington-state-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-and-people-task-force.

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