Three rural Alaska communities are involved in a new pilot program intended to create culturally sensitive protocols on how different government and law enforcement agencies respond to reports of missing or murdered Indigenous people.
The project was launched in recent weeks with Curyung Tribal Council of Dillingham, the Native Village of Unalakleet and Koyukuk Native Village, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in an online statement. The project comes after the launch of the federal Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative, and Alaska is one of several states to start up pilot programs related to the issue.
“Participating in this pilot project not only demonstrates to our families that we care deeply about the traumas they’re experiencing, but also asserts our sovereignty in addressing this issue for our people by developing an action plan relevant to Curyung’s culture and community,” Curyung Tribal Council Tribal Administrator Courtenay Carty said in the statement.
The three communities will work with multiple agencies to create a Tribal Community Response Plan that will outline how law enforcement coordination should be handled in these cases, victim services, community outreach and media communications, the statement said. The Alaska Missing and Murdered Indigenous People working group began meeting in September.
The response plan will include how communities with limited or no law enforcement will respond to the missing persons cases as well as how they will be handled in larger hub communities where there is municipal or state law enforcement, the statement said.
“Given that there are 229 Federally recognized tribes in Alaska, we have adopted a pilot program approach to establish initial Tribal Community Response Plans that can be shared with other tribal communities throughout the State,” Bryan Schroder, the U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska, said in the statement.
Alaska has one of the highest rates of unsolved cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous women. In August, the Indian Affairs Cold Case Office opened in Anchorage to focus on the cases that have gone cold.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Curyung Tribal Council as the Curyung Native Council.