Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon. It is a tremendous honor to be here with you and to reaffirm our shared commitment to prevent and respond to violence against Indigenous women and girls.
I want to give my sincere thanks to all who made this event possible, including the Indigenous leaders here, and to the governments of Canada and Mexico for their commitment to address gender-based violence impacting Indigenous women and girls.
This convening of the Trilateral Working Group is critically important. The testimony we have heard over these two days about three policy priority areas will aid our efforts to address the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous people and, relatedly, the high rates of people reported missing from Native communities.
This is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. To this end, last fall, President Biden signed an Executive Order that sought not only to strengthen our law enforcement response in Native communities but also to address the broader public safety and health concerns that underlie many incidents of violent crime and missing persons cases.
As the Executive Order recognizes, those issues require focused coordination across the federal government. We are grateful for the strong working partnership among the DOJ, the Department of the Interior, HHS and all our sister agencies. We want to ensure a whole-of-government approach to gender-based violence.
Immediately following the Executive Order, the department launched a Steering Committee at the Department of Justice to address the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous persons. Over the past several months, the committee has engaged closely with Tribal leaders and other stakeholders on this work, including ways to expand access to justice for women and girls — as well as gender-diverse and Two-Spirit individuals.
Today, I am proud to announce that, following those consultations, I have issued a new directive to all prosecutors and law enforcement agencies operating in Tribal communities. This directive responds to concerns that the department has long heard — and that I have heard directly — from Tribal leaders and stakeholders about addressing violent crime in Indian country. While we have seen spikes in violent crime across the country, generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives — and indigenous women and girls in particular — have endured disproportionate rates of violence. The directive reaffirms that combatting this crisis must be a priority for our prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
The new directive stresses that the department has a duty to investigate and prosecute serious crimes in Indian country, including domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. The directive also sets forth specific steps that U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement officers should take to ensure that their work is victim-centered and culturally and linguistically appropriate. Moreover, the directive reiterates how critical it is for the department to work closely with Tribal partners in supporting their implementation of the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
VAWA 2022 represents a renewed commitment to Tribal sovereignty, as it restores Tribes’ jurisdiction over several offenses committed on Tribal lands, including sexual violence, sex trafficking and child abuse. These provisions were hard-won, with advocates from across the Biden-Harris Administration — as well as Tribal leaders and community members — coming together to ensure their inclusion. The department is committed to supporting Tribes in exercising this authority, which will help remove barriers to justice for countless Indigenous women and children.
Of course, as the testimony we’ve heard over the past two days underscores, there is much more work to do to make sure Indigenous women and girls no longer suffer from disproportionate rates of violence. I look forward to our continued work together, as we strengthen our commitments toward preventing and addressing such violence.
Thank you all for your time. It is now my honor to introduce Dr. Juana Majel-Dixon, Chair of the National Congress of American Indian Task Force on Violence Against Women, who will offer a closing prayer.
Originally published at https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/deputy-attorney-general-lisa-o-monaco-delivers-remarks-closing-session-fourth-convening