President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, signed an executive order to set up a task force to address the issue of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
“It is my honor to sign an executive order … to address a tragedy facing Native American communities: the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in particular women and children,” said President Trump.
President Trump acknowledged, “It’s a tremendous problem” that has “been going on for a long time—many, many decades, beyond that.”
“And we’re going to address it. We’ve addressed it very strongly,” he told to the group at the signing event.
Present at the Oval Office event were several Native American leaders, including Chief Executive of Mille Lacs Band Melanie Benjamin, Vice President of the Navajo Nation Myron Lizer and his family, Chairman of the Crow Nation Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid, and Chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Kevin DuPuis.
Attorney General William Barr and Interior Secretary David Bernhard, who will oversee the task force, joined President Trump.
“The statistics are sobering and heartbreaking,” said President Trump. “More than 5,000 Native American women and girls were reported missing in a single year.”
“While the majority return home or are found, too many are still missing and their whereabouts are unknown—and they usually don’t find them,” added President Trump.
Native American women in some tribal communities are “10 times more likely to be murdered than the average American,” according to one study, stated President Trump, who stated that a specific task force “should have happened many years ago.”
“The victims and their families deserve action,” said President Trump and stated that the Department of Justice would issue grants to improve safety in Native American communities.
“With my order today, we’re launching Operation Lady Justice—an interagency task force led by Attorney General Barr and Secretary Bernhardt to develop an aggressive, government-wide strategy to end this terrible situation,” said President Trump.
The president explained that Operation Lady Justice would “bring new hope to Native American communities across the nation” and “deliver justice for the victims, closure for the families, and safety to those in harm’s way.”
“We will leverage every resource we have to bring safety to our tribal communities, and we will not waver in this mission,” assured the president, who added, “This has never been done before” and “We’re taking this very seriously.”
“It’s a very serious problem. It’s a horrible problem,” reiterated President Trump. Upon signing the order, he stated again that this was “something that should have been done a long time ago—decades ago.”
The president then invited the Native American leaders to say something.
Speaking in Ojibwe, an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family, Benjamin said it was an honor and a privilege to be present for the signing.
“It’s a historical day to know that our missing and murdered women have a place and a remembrance, and that we care about them and their families,” stated Benjamin.
“The Navajo Nation thanks you. … As the host people of the land, we feel that our prayers are being answered,” said Lizer and adding, “First Nations’ prayers are powerful.”
The president then invited the leader of the Crow Nation, “a man whose name I want to use” to say a few words.
“I love this name,” President Trump said, “I maybe have to change my name, because I love this name: Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid.”
“We are honored that you recognize the Native Nations, as well as the Crow Nation,” said Not Afraid.
The president then asked, “Is that true—you’re not afraid? Are you not afraid of anything?” Not Afraid replied, “Yes, sir.” Not Afraid then presented “a gift of our support of the Trump administration.”
Dupuis, the chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, stated, “It’s imperative that this changes, in a manner that we’re looked at not as the second-class citizens.”
Dupuis spoke about the unique role of women in the Native American community. “Our women are the ones who raise our children. Our women are the ones who take care of our village. Our women are the ones who take care of communities—our teachers,” said Dupuis and “Our children are our future.”
Dupuis talked about why “It’s very, very important that we, as a people, have a true identity,” and that “when we lose our women and we lose our children.”
“And if we look at the principles of seven generations forward—for every child that has gone, every woman that’s gone, that’s seven generations,” said Dupuis.
About 1.5 million Native American women experienced violence in their lifetime, including many who are victims of sexual violence, according to estimates from the National Institute of Justice.
President Trump’s executive order and the set up of Operation Lady Justice aims to stop the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, especially women and children.