South Dakota Attorney General Mark Vargo has filled 2 positions to coordinate efforts in dealing with missing and murdered Native Americans.
Allison Morrisette, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe is the state’s first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator while Mary Beth Holzwarth is South Dakota’s first Human Trafficking Coordinator. Both began work on Monday.
Vargo says the two issues are interrelated, so Morrisette and Holzwarth will coordinate efforts in both areas with state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies as well as nonprofit organizations.
He says South Dakota’s Native American communities suffer from crisis-level rates of people being killed or going missing. Currently, 57% of those listed in the attorney general’s database of missing persons are Native American.
Morrisette was the Adult Diversion Coordinator for the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office while Holzwarth has spent the past 13 years as CEO of Endeavor 52, a grassroots organization dedicated to preventing child sexual assault.
Vargo says he’s “thrilled to welcome the breadth and depth of expertise” Morrisette and Holzwarth bring to the AG’s office and is confident they will help it live up to its motto of “Equal Justice Under the Law.”
Attorney General-elect Marty Jackley agrees, saying Morrisette’s “proven ability to work with different law enforcement agencies and Native communities will be a powerful asset furthering our commitment to serving all South Dakotans,”
As for Holzwarth, Jackley says her “long track record of advocating for children will be a needed and powerful tool in our fight against human trafficking.”