South Dakota AG plans to hire missing Indigenous coordinator

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Attorney General Mark Vargo on Tuesday prepared to hire a law enforcement officer to coordinate investigations into the disappearance and murder of Indigenous people.

Vargo’s office said in a statement he met with Indigenous leaders after a gathering that included a song from Rapid City’s Wambli Ska Society and a smudging ceremony.

The Legislature created the liaison position in 2021 to coordinate efforts across federal, tribal and local law enforcement agencies in addressing high rates of unsolved murders and disappearances among Indigenous people. Tribal members are disproportionately represented in the state’s missing persons database.

“We are hoping that we can work more closely together to solve the problems that we have together,” Vargo said in a statement. “Our problems do not respect ethnicities or jurisdictional lines. They don’t respect lines on the map. So why should our response be divided by those things?”

Vargo plans to hire someone for the position in the coming months.