While there are resources on a national level for homicide victims and victim's families, they do not address the unique jurisdictional challenges that are specific to Native people.
Furthermore, there is only one federally funded resource that is specific to Native homicide victims. (the BIA/MMU website) ; however, that resource is limited Native homicide victim's who's death's occur on tribal land. Sadly, there currently aren't any federally funded resources for Native homicide victims who's death's occur on non-tribal land.
Another issue that may occur is when a loved one's cause of death is listed as "Undetermined". Resources for homicide victims become inaccessible for cases in which the cause of death is listed as "Undetermined". To add to the frustration, cases in which a cause of death is categorized as "Undetermined" by the Medical Examiner can then be closed by the investigating officer.
Also, instances in which a homicide isn't solved based on a lack of information or evidence, they become what is known as a "cold case".
Hope for cold cases may be on the horizon. Currently there is a bill that has been presented to Congress. The Homicide Victim's Families Rights Act of 2021 (H.R. 3359).
This bill would insure that cases three years or older would be reopened for investigation in an effort to bring closure to victim's families.
Of particular interest to families who feel that their loved one's case may have not been thoroughly investigated and erroneously categorized as "Undetermined" or even wrongly closed based on an investigating officers bias, the Homicide Victims Families Rights Act includes a section on bias:
Sec. 11 (b) Bias. If an immediate family member believes there was bias demonstrated in the handling of the initial case, any case file review, or any full reinvestigation by any of the possible applicable agencies, said family member may communicate that concern to the Attorney General. The Attorney General shall review the allegations made by the immediate family member to determine if, in the interest of justice, another agency should conduct the case file review or full reinvestigate, as applicable.
This is a bill that we will be keeping an eye on.
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