Yurok Tribe hires investigator for missing, murdered Indigenous cases
The Yurok Tribe announced this week it hired a law enforcement leader to investigate existing and new cases involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in California's North Coast region.
MMIP investigator Julia Oliveira brings to the new position 25 years of experience. She is a member of the Wyandotte Tribe and spent two decades with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, where she held a variety of roles ranging from patrol deputy to school resource officer. During her career, she conducted missing persons and child sexual abuse investigations. Oliveira continues to serve on HCSO's Crisis Intervention Team and is its longest-serving member. For the past four years, Oliveira led the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Police Department. She also holds a leadership position in the U.S. Office of Violence Against Women's Task Force on Research on Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women.
"I applied for the MMIP investigator position because I am very passionate about this subject," Oliveira said in a prepared statement. "Throughout the state of California, very few resources are allocated to cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous people. I was very excited when I saw the opportunity to be the person who is solely focused on finding missing Indigenous people."
The chair of the Yurok Tribe expressed enthusiasm for the hiring of Oliveira.
"We are so fortunate that Julia decided to accept the investigator position. She has the ideal background for this important job," said Joseph L. James in a news release. "She will help bring closure and justice to the families of missing tribal citizens. The new investigator will be engaged in our MMIP prevention effort too."
Oliveira is the first fully dedicated tribal MMIP investigator in California. She works within the Yurok Office of the Tribal Prosecutor, which is part of the Tribe's MMIP response team. The investigator will conduct inquiries into current and cold MMIP cases.
Prior to accepting the position, Oliveira served on the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor's MMIP Roundtable. The roundtable group meets on a regular basis to discuss solutions to the MMIP crisis and is currently comprised of the following tribes: Yurok Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Trinidad Rancheria, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria and Quartz Valley Tribe. It is open to all tribes in the region.
The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians awarded the Yurok Tribe a grant to hire the MMIP investigator. In addition to funding the investigator position, the $350,000 grant will support the creation of a database that will be employed to analyze patterns in missing persons cases and identify potential perpetrators.
In December 2021, the Yurok Tribe declared an MMIP emergency in response to a spike in MMIP cases in Northern California, including the disappearance of Hupa citizen Emmilee Risling. Risling was last seen on the Yurok Reservation on October 14, 2021.
California has the fifth-highest number of MMIP cases in the US. Nearly every one of the state's 110 federally recognized tribes are experiencing MMIP crises.
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