An Honor

Sometimes an invitation comes along that you can’t refuse. About a year ago I was asked to join a team of facilitators, writers and administrative staff to support the newly formed commission to address the crisis of missing, murdered and trafficked Indigenous people (MMTIP). Very grateful for the chance to be part of the effort, I accepted and for the past year have been working to help bring the Not Invisible Act Commission into being. I am careful not to talk publicly about my current cases. The work is often delicate and it is crucial to maintain confidentiality for the participants. But, last Tuesday Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, co-chair of the commission with Attorney General Merrick Garland, issued a press release reporting on the first in-person meeting of the commission in Washington DC. And so I take that as permission to share with you what has been consuming most of my professional life in the past several months. At the end of this post are the link to the press release which will give you an overview of the commission, and a glorious photo of some of the commissioners and staff with Secretary Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

Commission support team (partial) with Secretary Haaland;
Cam Hager, me, Steven Hafner, Pat Field

Most federal commissions are small (10-20) and include experts in the field from government, academia and related organizations. They typically meet in DC and then hold public hearings around the country, taking testimony that will enrich and round out their understanding of the issues. This commission is unique in its size (45 members) and its makeup. A significant number of the commissioners are family members and survivors of this epidemic of abuse sweeping much of Indian country. They are working side-by-side with a broad range of representatives from law enforcement, data management agencies, non-profits serving these victims and families, and many others who have knowledge and insights that can inform the commission’s recommendations.

The presence of these family members and survivors has been critical in keeping the commission focused on what really matters. Their stories and life experience remind us all of the very real impact of this epidemic and the desperate need for attention. There is no way that their fellow commissioners who are professionals from the Departments of Justice and Interior, the FBI, BIA, CDC, Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies around the country can forget why they are there and the urgency of their work. It is not easy for family members and survivors to educate, to relive their horrific experiences, to grieve again for a lost one. I admire their courage and commitment to this effort. They are choosing to work with the federal government, hoping that this time it will be worth it and that the results will be good for Indian Country. I am honored to be working with commissioners and staff, and I know that for all of us this is much more than just a job.

Link to press release:

Deputy Attorney General Monaco, Secretary Haaland, members of the Not Invisible Act Commission and staff

Department of Interior, Deputy Attorney General Monaco, Secretary Haaland, members of the Not Invisible Act Commission and staff

34 thoughts on “An Honor”

  1. So heartened that critically important inquiry is taking place and that you are part of it. ❤️🙌⚡️

  2. What better person for such a commission than you! Congratulations! Comforting to know the government gets some things right.

    1. Yes, they get some things right, and from my view on this project they are really trying for both a good outcome and a collaborative, respectful process.

  3. Lucy,
    I’ve always been so impressed by the important work you do. This may be the most important and sacred work of your career. We have a statewide taskforce here in Washington focused on this critical issue. Every hearing through the legislative process and meeting I have been able to listen to has been eye opening and heartbreaking. Wishing you the very best.

    1. Thank you, Julie. Yes, the Washington task force is a model. We have a wonderful tribal policewoman from your state on the commission who brings such an important perspective.

  4. This is the first positive step I’ve seen in this country to address the ongoing tragedy of the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic. They couldn’t have chose a more thoughtful facilitator. The makeup of the group also holds promise. It is so encouraging that you are involved and leadership is committed.

    1. And thanks to you, Les, for your untiring work for good. I’ll never forget your (in your dentist days) sign at a protest many years ago — Fight Plaque Not Iraq.

  5. So glad to know these efforts are happening and I’m grateful that you are contributing to it.

    1. Thank you, Seth, and I miss you! I am so proud of all you’ve done in the field, and will continue to do. Let’s catch up with a zoom sometime.

  6. Lucy, I’m grateful you are doing the difficult and important work.

  7. Dear Lucy,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It is wonderful to see this work being done, and huge kudos to you for stepping into this role. I will share this with my friend and colleague, Chris Howell (Pawnee), who is both a mediator and co-trainer for a course we’ve developed on request for the Air Force and have been delivering for four years on “Effective American Indian Communication and Tribal Consultation.” I know he will share with others in his network and help get the word out.
    With heartfelt thanks and appreciation,

    1. I really appreciate hearing from you, Tanya, and many thanks for passing this on to Chris, who I would love to meet sometime. Your course sounds great and so badly needed. You remind me of how many of us there are, doing our thing, fitting one more piece into the puzzle we hope will be completed some day!

  8. I echo what both Carol and John said. So overdue, so critical, such a testament to the importance of the appointment of Secretary Haaland – and of course, to your decades of dedication to voice and justice.

  9. Thank you Lucy for continuing the good work you have always done!

    1. Thank you, Brian. Fortunately I’m part of a wonderful support team for the commission — 4 out of 7 are Native American, which is critical.

  10. Lucy, as someone else wrote, this is sacred work and so connected to the reality of our world. I hope your involvement leads to writing about this work and bringing real change to the problems. Hopeful times!

  11. Just incredible work here Lucy and so glad I got to hear about it from you in Santa Fe a few months back – so desperately needed, so overdue and I can’t imagine anyone in this world better than you to help facilitate this important initiative. I look forward to hearing where it goes from here and the immense difference I hope it makes.

    1. Crossing my fingers, Susan, that it results in some real improvement. Thanks for your cheer leading — much appreciated.

  12. I have been following this work in Canada and now in NM and also now focus on Indigenous peoples. I wish you the best in this intense and important work. Grateful you are part of the team.

  13. I can imagine how emotionally intense and troubling it must be to hear their stories. It would take people of immense compassion, faith and strength to do this work. Thank goodness you are one of them.

  14. Lucy,
    I am in awe of you and your work. I can imagine this must be emotionally intense for all involved. My heart aches at the thought of the many missing. I am a retired physician and university Ombuds, moved to Santa Fe in the middle of the epidemic, and never connected with you in person, but would love to!

    1. Hello Joan, and welcome to Santa Fe. Thank you for you comment. I really appreciate it and hope to meet you sometime. You can contact me through this website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *