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Washington State Emmett Till Indigenous Archives and Cold Cases Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,500,000)

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) proposes to use grant funding in collaboration with Washington State tribes to research, identify and create an inventory of cold cases involving Indigenous victims with civil rights violations prior to 1980.

During the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session, advocates, community members and legislators negotiated a budget proviso for a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) Task Force to be established within the AGO. Since January 2022, the Task Force and its subcommittees have held over 125 meetings with tribal leaders, grassroots activists, community programs, families, and impacted community members to understand the root of the problem and identify positive steps towards justice. The Task Force identified a number of systemic barriers to justice including data misclassification, lack of access to resources, and tribal mistrust in law enforcement. At the Task Force’s recommendation, the Legislature enacted a bill to create an MMIWP Cold Case Unit in the AGO in April 2023. The Legislature also created a new Boarding Schools Advisory Group also in the AGO.

Through the MMIWP Task Force’s work, the AGO identified two pre-1980 cold cases eligible for the timeline of this grant in the Yakama and Snoqualmie tribes. This award would allow the AGO to work with the tribes and their tribal archives to research and identify additional pre-1980 cold cases with civil rights violations involving Indigenous victims, and create an inventory of these cases. This work will: (1) identify cold cases with civil rights violations in which the Indigenous victim and their loved ones never received justice or accountability; (2) develop an inventory of the pre-1980 tribal cold cases; and (3) produce a public report documenting supporting information found over the course of research conducted.

Tribes are sovereign entities, have their own tribal archives, require tribal consultation and may require individual memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for the AGO to access those archives. At this time, the Colville, Cowlitz, Puyallup, Spokane, and Suquamish tribes have provided letters of support for this project, and the AGO anticipates interest from additional tribes.

Date Created: September 27, 2023