WASHINGTON, D.C. -- He didn't offend anyone. He didn't brag about himself. He didn't lash out at his opponents, perceived or otherwise.
No, in a marked contrast to last year's Native American Heritage Month
, when he stunned Indian Country by using
the name of a Native woman in an derogatory manner
, President Donald Trump stuck to the script, well for the most part.
In a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, he signed an executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives
"It’s a tremendous problem," Trump said in announcing Operation Lady Justice, a government-wide initiative
aimed at addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans.
"It’s been going on for a long time -- many, many decades, beyond that," Trump said.
Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Executive Order on Establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives
Just like last year Trump was surrounded by some prominent figures as he closed out Native American Heritage Month. But instead of using the Navajo Code Talkers
as props in his political score-settling, the president instead invited tribal leaders to share their own words on such a solemn occasion.
First up was Melanie Benjamin, the Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
. She introduced herself in the Ojibwe language.
"It’s a historical day to know that our missing and murdered women have a place and a remembrance, and that we care about them and their families,"
Benjamin said in the Oval Office as she offered thanks to Trump.
Next up was Vice President Myron Lizer
of the Navajo Nation
. He was accompanied by wife, Second Lady Dottie Lizer
, and their daughter, Halle Lizer.
"As the host people of the land, we feel that our prayers are being answered -- and First Nations’ prayers are powerful," said Lizer, who provided a blessing
before the event started.
"We look forward to seeing some improvement in Indian Country," Lizer said as he thanked Trump in the Navajo language.
President Donald Trump displays a signed copy of the executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives at the White House in Washington, D.C, on November 26, 2019. Photo: Joyce N. Boghosian / White House
Also in attendance was Chairman Alvin "A.J." Not Afraid of the Crow Tribe
. Though Trump pointed out the uniqueness of his name, it was in a friendly and professional manner.
"I personally am affected," said Not Afraid, whose reservation is located in a county that suffers from the highest rate of missing and murdered cases
in the state of Montana.
"So knowing that you support in the realm of this executive order, the Crow Tribe is honored," Not Afraid said before presenting Trump showing the president with a group of Crow citizens in their headdresses.
Kevin DuPuis, the chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
, introduced himself in the Ojibwe language at the White House. He too has been personally affected by the crisis
of the missing and murdered in Indian Country.
"Our women are the ones who raise our children," DuPuis said. "Our women are the ones who take care of our village. Our women are the ones who take care of communities -- our teachers."
"Our children are our future," DuPuis said. "And these are both being affected in that way."
Another Fond du Lac leader closed out the round of remarks from the Indian Country attendees. Council member Roger Smith said he's been working on issues affecting the missing and murdered since being hired as his tribe's first police officer
more than 20 years ago.
"I’m also honored to be sitting on Governor Walz from Minnesota’s Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
," he said of an initiative signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz (D) after being written by State Rep. Mary
(D), who is a descendant of the Standing
Rock Sioux Tribe
According to Trump's executive order, the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives
will be housed and funded by the Department of Justice
, It is being co-chaired by Attorney General Bog Barr and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who were present at the signing.
"A you know, this is a very vexing and dangerous issue in Indian Country, and I appreciate your leadership on it," Barr told Trump.
"This is an opportunity to bring the expertise of the Department of Justice, and the experience and expertise of Interior, together with our teams to work for these communities that desperately can use our help," said Bernhardt.
Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, center left, leads President Donald Trump in a prayer at the White House in Washington, D.C, on November 26, 2019. Photo: Joyce N. Boghosian / White House
In addition to the co-chairs, the task force will consist of the leaders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
, the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and the Administration for Native Americans
, among other federal officials. The members have been directed to consult with "tribal governments" and provide a written report within one year, to be followed up by another status update a year later.
“The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous persons has not only affected families, but it impacts communities," Second Lady Dottie Lizer of the Navajo Nation said after the event at the White House. "As leaders, we must continue to advocate for safety and justice for Native women and children. Most importantly, we need to address efforts to restore balance, love, and harmony within Native homes and communities."
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