Tester Statement on Opening of Billings Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Cold Case Team Office
U.S. Senator Jon Tester today applauded the opening of a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Cold Case Team office in Billings that will be dedicated to reanalyzing and investigating cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP).
“Indigenous peoples—particularly women—are far more likely to experience violence, and human trafficking rates in Indian Country are exponentially higher than other parts of the United States,” said Tester. “I’m glad to see this BIA Cold Case Team office opening its doors in Billings, because far too many missing person cases in Indian Country have fallen by the wayside. We need to bring justice and closure for the families of those whose cases have gone cold while upholding the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribes—and that’s exactly what this office will work to accomplish.”
Tester fought for the creation and funding of these BIA Cold Case Teams, which are showing promise in solving cold cases in Indian Country. The BIA will partner with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on case reviews, and will establish a total of seven offices across the United States. According to the National Crime Information Center, only 116 of the nearly 6,000 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) were listed in the Justice Department’s official database in 2016.
As a member and former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester has led the charge to address the MMIP and MMIW crisis. Two Tester-backed bills to improve public safety in Indian Country were recently approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and he has worked to hold both Director Wray and Attorney General William Barr accountable for failing to address Montana’s public safety needs and neglecting to address the MMIW crisis, human trafficking, and methamphetamine use. Senator Tester has urged the FBI to swiftly respond to all MMIW cases, including those that occur outside of a reservation.