Resolve is part of an ongoing series about Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women in Alaska created in partnership with Affinity Films, a non-profit media organization based in Anchorage, Alaska. This episode features Tara Katuk Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Department of the Interior, designee for the Secretary of the Interior and Jean (Jeannie) Hovland, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs and Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans, Department of Health and Human Services.
On November 26, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13898, forming the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Task Force aims to enhance the operation of the criminal justice system and address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered people — particularly missing and murdered women and girls. On August 26, 2020 The Operation Lady Justice task force opened up a cold case office here in Anchorage, Alaska adding to previously opened up offices in Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona since July 27.
We sat down with Tara and Jeannie over maktak and quaq to hear more about the effort.
“We are in the process of opening seven cold case offices across the country. We kicked off our first cold case office in Bloomington, MN on July 27th, and that’s historic because there’s never been a cold case office specific to Native American missing and murdered cases established in the country, ever.” - Tara Katuk Sweeney
“One of the touchstones, at least in the time that I’ve been with the Department of Interior is drawing upon our Inupiaq values as a guide. You can’t go wrong when you go back and you use your traditional values as a guide on how you approach controversial issues, how you approach emotional issues, or extremely stressful issues. With this epidemic facing our communities and that spirit of partnership, it’s really kind of like atautchikun. I just strongly believe that when you use your traditional values as a guide, you’re going in the right direction.” - Tara Katuk Sweeney
See the Indian Affairs news release below: