GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY HOUSES PHOENIX REGION COLD CASE OFFICE
“The plague of missing and murdered Native Americans has been unaddressed for too long.”
Communication & Public Affairs Office
Gila River Indian Community
Today, a Cold Case Office was opened for the Western Region as part the Operation Lady Justice Taskforce. The Office, located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, is one of seven planned nationwide to investigate cold cases and those cases involving missing and murdered Native Americans.
The Code Case Office will serve Tribal Nations located in the states of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada The office will be the first Cold Case Office located within a tribal reservation and co-located with a tribal police force.
Two federal agents will be located within the Gila River Police Department and will work alongside the cold case unit that the Gila River Police Department created last month. Governor Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community commented, “The Community is pleased to be the site of the Western Region’s Cold Case Office.
The plague of missing and murdered Native Americans has been unaddressed for too long. This office is a firststep toward prioritizing those Native Americans who have gone missing and leave irreplaceable holes in their families and Communities.”
Chief Chavez of the Gila River Police Department stated, “I am looking forward to having the Gila River Police Department’s officer’s work alongside the Cold Case Officers so we can share resources and work together to combat the crisis of Missing andMurdered Native Americans within the Gila River Indian Community and throughout the Region.”
The Cold Case Office is part of the Operation Lady Justice Taskforce which was created to address the number of missing and murdered Native Americans in the United States. The Taskforce brings together federal officials from agencies across the federal government to work together todevelop strategies to address the Missing and Murdered crisis in Indian Country.
The strategies include data sharing, improvinginvestigative cooperation across governmental agencies, and bringnew investigative techniques to open cases. Governor Lewis remarked that “The Community is looking forward to this first step leading to even more action to address this longstanding crisis in Indian Country.
As we continue this effort, it will be important to bring in other key voices in this battle and we look forward to working with all those who have dedicated their voices to combatting this pervasive crisis in Indian Country.”
Cold Case Offices Around Indian CountryAt the moment, there are plans to open seven task force offices across the country in major city centers, near tribal communities. The first cold case office opened in Billings, Mont., where Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs, was present to highlight DOI’s efforts to assist with cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous people in the region and across the Nation.
Additionally, other offices in Minnesota, South Dakotaand Albuquerque are now open to address cold cases in Indian Country. “[They] are evidence, that we are taking seriously the concerns of tribal communities who want to know the circumstances of their people, who have gone missing or fallen victim to murder,” said Charles Addington, Deputy Bureau Director for the BIA Office of Justice Services.
“The Blackfeet Nation is in full support of the Cold Case Murder Task opening in our region and are hopeful that this will be apath forward for providing justice to many Indian families who have lost loved ones to either murder and or abduction,” said Timothy Davis Blackfeet Tribe.
Since 2019, the DOI and BIA have been investigating cold cases, with the addition of the field offices, the two agencies hope to build partnerships with tribal law enforcement and governments to put an end to missing and murdered Indigenous people in Indian Country.