AP

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.

AP

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows Iran's nuclear site in Isfahan, Iran, April 4, 2024...

Associated Press

Israel, Iran play down apparent Israeli strike. The muted responses could calm tensions — for now

Israel and Iran are both playing down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran.

1 day ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 bill...

Associated Press

Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

The House pushed ahead Friday on a foreign aid package of $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other sources of humanitarian support.

1 day ago

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

2 days ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

2 days ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

3 days ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

S. Dakota AG hires missing Indigenous, trafficking positions