S. Dakota AG hires missing Indigenous, trafficking positions

Nov 30, 2022, 12:19 PM | Updated: 1:08 pm

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s attorney general on Wednesday announced that he has filled a position to coordinate efforts from state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to tackle alarming rates of Indigenous people going missing or having their deaths remain unsolved.

The attorney general’s office has put a new focus on crimes against Native American people, recently hiring two women to address problems Vargo described as interrelated: human trafficking and missing or murdered Indigenous people.

The state’s Native American communities suffer from what advocates describe as crisis-level rates of people going missing or killed. Currently, 57% of people who are listed in the attorney general’s database of missing people are Native American, despite them representing less than 9% of the state’s total population. It’s a problem that is not restricted to South Dakota. Tribes, federal agencies and state governments nationwide are trying to tackle a decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Allison Morrisette, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who previously worked in the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, will be South Dakota’s new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator. Mary Beth Holzwarth, who previously directed an organization dedicated to child sexual assault prevention called Endeavor 52, will be the Human Trafficking Coordinator.

Vargo said they would focus on pulling together resources to address crimes that often cross tribal and state boundaries.

“No single entity or agency can solve the problems that we face,” he said at a news conference. “We all face some of the same problems and we have to face them together.”

The hirings, however, come almost two years after the Legislature created the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator in the attorney general’s office.

Rep. Peri Pourier, a Democratic state lawmaker who spearheaded the effort to create the position, said at the news conference that she was frustrated that it had taken so long to hire someone, though she credited Vargo with making it a priority once he was appointed to the office in June.

“I am actually glad it took Attorney General Vargo to come to the table,” she said. “This is a problem that is going to take all of us.”

Vargo has also proposed a commission, made up of advocates, state leaders and tribal officials, to advise the attorney general’s office.

The hiring delay had mostly come under the previous attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg. He had told the Legislature that he was supportive of the position, but he had not received the funding from the Legislature to do it.

Native Hope, an organization affiliated with St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, stepped in to fund the position with a grant for the first three years. Vargo said the funding will help the position get started and anticipated the state would fund the position after that.

Morrisette, the new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator said in a statement she was determined to change how Native Americans see the state’s law enforcement.

“A lot of my relatives feel they are overlooked,” she said. “My job with the Attorney General’s Office is to ensure that is not true.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Strikes, protests hit France in round 2 of pension battle

PARIS (AP) — French labor leaders hope to bring more than 1 million demonstrators again into the streets Tuesday in the latest clash of wills with the government over its plans to push back France’s retirement age. For both sides, the nationwide strikes and protests are an important test. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government says […]
3 hours ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Global shares fall in muted trading ahead of Fed meeting

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares declined in muted trading on Tuesday as investors awaited decisions on interest rates and updates on corporate earnings reports from around the world. The Federal Reserve’s next decision on interest rates, expected Wednesday, will provide insight into whether the U.S. central bank will further ease its aggressive stance on fighting […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering its final 747 jumbo jet. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One […]
1 day ago
FILE - A worker loads boxes of goods from a truck outside a wholesale clothing mall in Beijing on T...
Associated Press

Chinese factory activity rebounds, adding to recovery signs

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese factory activity rebounded in January from three months of contraction, adding to signs the world’s second-largest economy might be recovering from a painful slump, an official survey showed Tuesday. A monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group rose to 50.1 on a 100-point scale […]
1 day ago
Visitors try out Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Book2 at its shop in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan....
Associated Press

Samsung’s profit plummets amid global economic woes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics said Tuesday its profit for the last quarter plummeted nearly 70% as a weak global economy depressed demand for its consumer electronics products and computer memory chips. The company’s operating profit of 4.3 trillion won ($3.5 billion) for the three months through December fell 69% from a year […]
1 day ago
A trishaw driver wades through a crowded street at the frozen Houhai Lake in Beijing, Monday, Jan. ...
Associated Press

IMF upgrades outlook for the global economy in 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — The outlook for the global economy is growing slightly brighter as China eases its zero-COVID policies and the world shows surprising resilience in the face of high inflation, elevated interest rates and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. That’s the view of the International Monetary Fund, which now expects the world economy to […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
S. Dakota AG hires missing Indigenous, trafficking positions