Bureau of Indian Affairs, FBI Sign Agreement To Improve Law Enforcement in Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced an agreement that updates guidelines to provide for the effective and efficient administration of criminal investigations in Indian Country. This is the first update since the early 1990’s to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the bureaus.

The agreement was highlighted by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland during remarks at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit and was discussed during a panel featuring Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. The summit provides an opportunity for Administration and tribal leaders from the 574 federally recognized tribes to discuss ways the federal government can invest in and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships as well as ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come.

“Interagency coordination is absolutely critical given the complexities of jurisdiction in tribal communities,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “This agreement supports an all-of-government approach to addressing federal responsibilities and tribal needs in Indian Country. All federal agencies share a treaty and trust responsibility to protect tribal sovereignty and revitalize tribal communities. This partnership will further support our efforts to keep Native people safe in their homes and communities.”

“This agreement is a crucial step to advancing public safety for American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Department of Justice is committed to working with the Department of the Interior to investigate Indian Country crimes, including reports of missing or murdered Indigenous people, quickly, effectively, and respectfully. We are grateful to the tribes that provided input into this new policy.”

“The FBI is committed to ongoing and continued collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI has a crucial role in successfully addressing matters in the nation’s Indian Country communities and this updated MOU affirms our dedication to the mission of protecting all Americans. The FBI will not waver in its support of our tribal law enforcement agency partners and our coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

Under the agreement, the BIA Office of Justice Services and the FBI will cooperate on investigations and share information and investigative reports. The agencies will also establish written guidelines outlining jurisdiction and investigative roles and responsibilities for investigators from the BIA, FBI and tribal law enforcement agencies. The agreement also requires that all BIA, FBI and tribal law enforcement officers receive training regarding trauma-informed, culturally responsive investigative approaches.