NCUIH Submits Comments on Executive Order 14053 About Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

On September 8, the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) submitted comments on Executive Order 14053 “Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People.” This comment was in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) correspondence dated May 25, 2022, seeking input and recommendations on the policy directives outlined.

NCUIH requested the following:

  • NCUIH requested that DHS honor E.O. 14053 by including urban Indian organizations (UIOs) in policies, procedures, and projects to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).
    • Working with UIOs is specifically required by E.O. 14053 itself
    • According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), as of August 1, 2021, most missing and unidentified cases involving American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons occurred off tribal land. AI/AN individuals living in urban areas face many, if not all, of the same violent crime and MMIP issues as AI/ANs living on reservations or tribal Iand.
    • In particular, UIOs can be critical partners in DHS’ efforts to address cross-border and jurisdiction issues.
    • We note that UIOs have already been working on addressing human trafficking through programs and services to victims and their families. For example, First Nations Community Healthsource in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has an Education and Advocacy against Sex Trafficking (EAST) program dedicated to supporting AI/AN victims of sex trafficking in the area and surrounding Tribal communities.
  • NCUIH recommended that DHS hosts an Urban Confer Regarding DHS’ Plan to Address MMIP.
    • To assist DHS collaboration with UIOs in fulfillment of the goals and directives of E.O. 14053, NCUIH recommends that DHS host an Urban Confer with UIOs regarding E.O. 14053. Urban Confers are an established mechanism for dialogue between the federal government and UIOs that are a response to decades of deliberate federal efforts (i.e., forced assimilation, termination, relocation) that resulted in seventy percent (70%) of AI/AN people living outside of Tribal jurisdictions, thus making Urban Confer integral to address the care needs of most AI/AN persons.


EO 14053

EO 14053 is a landmark pledge “to strengthen public safety and criminal justice in Indian Country and beyond, to reduce violence against Native American people, and to ensure swift and effective Federal action that responds to the problem of missing or murdered Indigenous people.” NCUIH is particularly encouraged by DHS’s efforts to communicate with Tribes as DHS continues to grow its efforts to support public safety in Tribal communities. NCUIH agrees with the Biden-Harris Administration that challenges faced by Tribes are best met by Tribally-driven solutions and appreciates that the DHS hosted several Tribal Consultation sessions from July to August 2022 seeking input and recommendations concerning DHS’ efforts to address the unacceptably high rate of violent crime in AI/AN communities. These efforts advance President Biden’s directive in E.O. 14053, to engage in “[c]onsistent engagement, commitment, and collaboration,” with AI/AN people and communities to “drive long-term improvement to public safety for all Native Americans” is essential to ensure AI/AN voices are included in issues that directly affect their communities at dipropionate rates.

E.O. 14053 specifically directs the federal government to “build on existing strategies to identify solutions directed toward the particular needs of urban Native Americans,” because “approximately 70 percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas and part of this epidemic of violence is against Native American people in urban areas.” Furthermore, E.O. 14053 also instructs the federal government to “work closely with Tribal leaders and community members, Urban Indian Organizations, and other interested parties to support prevention and intervention efforts that will make a meaningful and lasting difference on the ground.” Despite E.O. 14053 recognizing that the federal government must develop solutions for AI/ANs living in urban areas and that UIOs must be included in the development of these solutions to address the unacceptably high rate of violent crime and MMIP, DHS has not made any efforts to work with UIOs to date.

  • NCUIH Efforts on MMIP On May 19, 2022, the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) submitted comments on Executive Order (EO) 14053— Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People.  NCUIH outlined recommendations for HHS including communication and collaboration with UIOs, engagement with UIOs as critical stakeholders in HHS’ comprehensive plan to address the MMIP Crisis and violent crime, and the establishment of an agency-wide Urban Confer policy.
  • May 5, National MMIP Awareness Day, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco hosted an event to announce the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)’s Not Invisible Act Commission (Commission). The Commission is led by the Departments of the Interior and Justice and is aimed at reducing violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives. Members of the Commission include Sonya Tetnowski (Makah), the National Council of Urban Indian Health’s President-Elect and the Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley. NCUIH supported the nomination of Ms. Tetnowski who also serves on the S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Acommittee on Tribal and Indian Affairs Commision Member Tetnowski said “I am honored and proud to be appointed to the Not Invisible Act Commission. In this role, I will work hard to shed light on the devastating impact of violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in urban areas.
  • On April 15, 2022, NCUIH submitted written comments and recommendations in response to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Dear Tribal Leader Letter seeking stakeholder input on DOJ’s efforts to address the unacceptably high rates of violent crime in American Indian and Alaska Native communities and the missing and murdered Indigenous persons (MMIP) crisis. In its comments, NCUIH noted the need for the federal government to also work with Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) to address these issues. NCUIH further offered to assist DOJ in establishing strong working relationships with UIOs as it works to address these pressing public safety issues.

Next Steps

NCUIH will continue to advocate for and comment on UIO inclusion in addressing the MMIP crisis.

NCUIH Submits Comment on Consistent Application of the Indian Child Welfare Act

On September 7, the National Council of Urban Indian Health(NCUIH) submitted written comments to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on the BIA and ACF’s efforts to promote the consistent application of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and protect children, families, and Tribes.

In the submitted comments, NCUIH made the following specific comments, requests, and recommendations to ACF and BIA in response to the July 8, 2022 correspondence:

  • Ensure that urban child welfare and judicial systems are aware of and able to implement ICWA appropriately
    • According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), American Indian/Alaska Native(AI/AN) children continue to be overrepresented in the state foster care system at a rate 7 times higher than their non-Native peers. Because more than 70% of AI/AN people live in urban settings, this overrepresentation undoubtedly includes AI/AN children living in urban areas.
    • To properly implement ICWA, state courts must determine whether a child is an “Indian Child” for the purposes of ICWA as a threshold determination in the proceedings. There are states with experience in the application of ICWA and making applicability determinations. However, some state courts and child protective agencies may not be aware of this requirement or may make incorrect assumptions about a child’s “Indian child” status based on physical appearance or distance from their Tribe. This process needs to be standardized across all states to ensure the safety of these children
    • An AI/AN child’s physical location should not affect whether they receive ICWA’s protections. Specifically, NCUIH requests that ACF and BIA provide technical assistance on ICWA to state social service and child welfare agencies and courts located in urban areas.
  • Actively inform urban child welfare and judicial systems about urban Indian organizations (UIOs) as a potential resource for ICWA proceedings
    • NCUIH recommended that, as part of their efforts to strengthen and implement ICWA, ACF and BIA actively inform state child welfare and judicial systems located in urban areas about UIOs as a potential ICWA resource.
    • While UIOs are healthcare organizations, they often provide culturally competent services that state child welfare services and courts can refer parents to in accordance with ICWA’s “active efforts” requirements. For example, various UIOs provide the following services: family support services, parenting classes and groups, gender-based violence programs, and breastfeeding support.
    • Because UIOs are AI/AN organizations, they may be able to provide useful contacts or other information when a state child welfare agency throughout the child welfare process, including during the initial “Indian child” determination phase.
    • The UIO connection may be particularly useful in areas, such as Chicago, where there is an active UIO but no federally recognized Tribes nearby, and urban systems may not know where to start with the ICWA process.


Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 to re-establish tribal authority over the adoption of Native American children (25 U.S.C. § 1903.) The goal of the Act was to strengthen and preserve Native American family structure and culture. Studies conducted in advance of ICWA’s drafting showed that between 25% and 35% of all Native children were being removed from their home by state child welfare and private adoption agencies. Of those, 85% were placed with non-Native families, even when fit and willing relatives were available. ICWA was established as a safeguard that requires:

  1. Recognition of Tribal jurisdiction over decisions for their Indian children;
  2. Establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families;
  3. Establishment of preferences for placement of Indian children with extended family or other Tribal families; and
  4. Institution of protections to ensure that birth parents’ voluntary relinquishments of their children are truly voluntary.

According to NICWA, ICWA “[l]essens the trauma of removal by promoting placement with family and community . . . [p]romotes the best interest of Indian children by keeping them connected to their culture, extended family, and community, which are proven protective factors . . . [and] [p]romotes placement stability by ensuring that voluntary adoptions are truly voluntary.”

Next Steps

NCUIH will continue to advocate for  the appropriate application of ICWA to all welfare proceedings involving AI/AN children, regardless of whether the child is located in an urban or rural community.



USDA Publishes 2022 Tribal Resource Guide

On August 16, 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2022 edition of the USDA Resource Guide for American Indians and Alaska Natives (Resource Guide). The Resource Guide provides information regarding USDA resources and services available to tribal governments, citizens, and organizations. The Resource Guide covers four categories of USDA programs: 1) agriculture, food sovereignty, and traditional foods; 2) Indian Country economic development; 3) conservation and forestry; and 4) research, extension, and outreach. Additionally, the USDA released the Native Youth Resource Guide (Youth Guide). The Youth Guide summarizes USDA scholarship opportunities, internship programs, cultural summer camps for Native youth, afterschool activities, and resources for employment in the federal government.


The USDA is a federal executive department responsible for food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues within the United States. The USDA plays an important role in the development of tribal nations and self-governance.  Funding from the USDA helps grow new tribal agricultural ventures, promote traditional food ways, and benefit Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native dietary needs. As a federal agency, the USDA helps advance the federal trust responsibility to Native American communities.

The newly published Resource Guides seek to provide transparency to tribal nations. “These guides can introduce our tribal nation partners to the many USDA funding opportunities and resources that can benefit them and their communities,” remarked Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. NCUIH recommends tribal nations use the Resource Guides to help facilitate growth within Indian Country.