Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed an agreement to establish guidelines to provide for the efficient administration of criminal investigations in Indian Country at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the Justice Department reports. It was the first update since the early 1990s to a memorandum of understanding between the agencies. The summit provided an opportunity for the federal administration and Tribal leaders from the 574 federally recognized Tribes to discuss ways the federal government can strengthen nation-to-nation relationships as well as ensure that progress in Indian Country endures. “This agreement is a crucial step to advancing public safety for American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Department of Justice is committed to working with the Department of the Interior to investigate Indian Country crimes, including reports of missing or murdered Indigenous people, quickly, effectively, and respectfully.”
Under the agreement, the BIA Office of Justice Services and the FBI will cooperate on investigations and share information and investigative reports. The agencies will establish written guidelines outlining jurisdiction and investigative roles and responsibilities for investigators from the BIA, FBI, and Tribal law enforcement agencies. All BIA, FBI, and Tribal law enforcement officers will receive training regarding trauma-informed, culturally responsive investigative approaches. This agreement will support the unified response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis, and the Missing and Murdered Unit launched by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. It defines the responsibilities of FBI, BIA, and Tribal investigators to ensure that missing person cases are entered into the National Crime Information Center, National Incident-Based Reporting System, and other appropriate federal criminal databases, and that DNA is submitted to the National Missing Person DNA Database when appropriate and available. According to UPI News, of 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, only 116 were registered under missing person databases from the Justice Department. The new agreement also places the FBI in charge of investigations into shootings involving law enforcement officers and in-custody deaths.