PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota House on Tuesday passed a proposal to create an office under the attorney general to coordinate tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies in tackling the crisis of missing Indigenous people.
Democrat Rep. Peri Pourier, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, proposed the office as part of an effort to solve how a disproportionate number of Indigenous people go missing and are murdered in the state. She said that of 109 missing people statewide, 77 are Indigenous.
Pourier's bill would create a one-person office within the attorney general's office to specialize in coordinating law enforcement efforts across agencies. The attorney general's office assisted in writing the bill, but had concerns about funding, Pourier said. However, the lawmaker said that tribal governments have committed to seeking federal funding for the office.
She pointed out that the federal government and tribes have made the issue a priority, saying, “This is an opportunity for the state to come to the table.”
Oglala Sioux Tribal President Kevin Killer said there is an “epidemic” of women and girls going missing from Native communities, both on reservations and in urban areas.
The bill will next proceed to the Senate.
This story was first published Feb. 23, and has been updated to correct the overall number of missing people statewide to 109, not 179, and delete a reference to the attorney general’s office not supporting the bill due to concerns about funding. The attorney general's office did not publicly testify in support of the bill due to those concerns, but was generally supportive.