The U.S. Justice Department will double the funding it grants tribes for public safety programs and crime victims as it seeks to address the high-rates of violence against Native American women, acting associate attorney general Jesse Panuccio tells the Associated Press. DOJ will provide more than $113 million in public safety funding for 133 tribes and Alaska Native villages, and another $133 million will be awarded in the coming weeks to tribes to help serve Native American crime victims.
The announcement comes amid increased focus on the deaths and disappearances of Native American women and girls. “We recognize the serious nature of the problem we’re facing and we are trying through a variety of strategies — both through the funding and the use of our own prosecutors, and building up awareness — to address these issues,” said Panuccio. For decades, tribes largely had been unable to access money in a federal program aimed at supporting crime victims nationwide, even as federal data showed more than half of Native American women had encountered sexual or domestic violence at some point during their lives. On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average. Nationwide, figures at the end of 2017 showed a disproportionate number of them listed as missing. The announcement comes as a series of congressional proposals seek to address how authorities’ handle and track reports of missing women on reservations. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), seeks to establish protocols for handling cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.