Yurok Tribe hires new investigator for MMIP cases
(Left) Yurok Prosecutor Rosemary Deck, MMIP Investigator Julia Oliveira, Yurok Tribal Police Chief Greg O'Rourke and Yurok Tribal Police Lieutenant Jacob Morris. Photo provided by the Yurok Tribe.

In the continued efforts to investigate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples cases on the North Coast, the Yurok Tribe has hired investigator Julia Oliveira to view new and existing cases. 

According to tribal officials, Oliveira has 25 years of experience where, as a member of the Wyandotte Tribe, she worked for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in a variety of positions. During her career, Oliveira reportedly worked on missing persons and child sexual abuse investigations and is currently the longest-serving member of the HCSO's Crisis Intervention Team. Oliveira has also reportedly led the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Police Department for the past four years and maintains a leadership position with 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 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.”

Yurok Tribal Chairman Joseph L. James said that the tribe was fortunate that Oliveira accepted the position and hopes that she helps to bring justice and closure to the families of missing citizens. 

According to tribal officials, Oliveira is the first fully dedicated tribal MMIP investigator in California and will work with the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor, which is part of the tribe's MMIP response team. 

The Yurok Tribe declared an MMIP emergency in December 2021 after a spike in cases across the North Coast, including one involving a Hupa citizen Emmilee Risling who was last seen on the Yurok reservation on Oct. 14, 2021. In April 2022, 30 people from the Minnesota-based Jon Francis Foundation, dedicated to finding missing persons, worked with the Yurok Tribal Police and the HCSO to reportedly search nearly half of the reservation land that Risling had disappeared to no avail.

In October 2022 the Yurok Tribe hosted a statewide Tribal MMIP Summit where the 300 tribal leaders, police and impacted families spoke on a lack of funding and resources.

On Feb. 7, 2023, 500 tribal leaders from across the state met at the state capitol to hold the first official MMIP Day of Action, where leaders called for the passage of AB 44 and AB 273 to help provide further support to tribes investigating MMIP cases. Officials also made a $200 million budget request to the state to combat what they call the MMIP crisis. That same month the Yurok Tribe and the U.S. Marshals Service announced an MMIP pilot program that would allow both groups to jointly protect tribal citizens by sharing information and setting public safety goals. The initiative will also reportedly prioritize cases involving missing endangered children.

“We hope to leverage our relationship with the U.S. Marshals to build out our investigative program,” said Yurok Prosecutor Rosemary Deck in a press release.

According to the Yurok Tribe, California has the fifth-highest number of MMIP cases in the U.S. 

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