U.S. Attorneys and tribal leaders in Oklahoma announced on Monday details of their latest efforts to help find missing indigenous people.
Oklahoma is the first state to launch a new pilot project that could eventually also help other states with their missing person cases.
The pilot program will be led by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Cherokee Nation, in partnership with the U.S. attorneys' offices of the northern and eastern districts.
The pilot program involves implementing "Tribal Community Response Plan" guidelines. The Tribal Community Response Plan guidelines are for developing community outreach, working with law enforcement agencies, victim services, and communication with the media and the general public.
U.S. Attorney Shores said these Tribal Community Response Plan guidelines are ready to use immediately and any adjustments may be made in the next few months.
"It's not that we weren't already striving to do a lot of these particular protocols that have been in development, but now we're actually going to have guidelines that are written down that everyone can look at,” Shores said.
At a news conference Monday, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the issue of missing and murdered indigenous people is "plaguing all of Indian Country."
"Cherokee culture teaches us that every life, every person is precious, is sacred. Your existence should be treated as such. And if one of us falls, or one of us is missing, then the rest of us ought to gather up and do something about it, find that person and remember how sacred they are,” he said.
Shores said right now in Oklahoma there are 65 missing person cases that involve a Native American or Alaska Native.
In the coming weeks Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, and Montana will start similar programs. Shores said he believes Oklahoma was chosen to do this before any other state because of the tribal leadership here.