Tribal leaders cite problems with California’s Feather Alert for missing indigenous people

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Tribal leaders cite problems with California’s Feather Alert for missing indigenous people

California Politics

Anabel Sosa

January 29, 2024

Then Yurok tribe member Danielle Ipia-Vigil


in San Francisco last summer, her family asked


the state police issue a Feather Alert in the event of an emergency

notification alert

intended to help authorities locate


indigenous people going missing in California.

But the request was denied, leaving Ipia-Vigil as one of three known cases


people living in California who went missing in the past year

and for whom the request has been submitted

a spring alarm


somewhat rejected. Since the


system began a year ago, authorities have issued only two of the five requested Feather Alerts, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A CHP official said local officers denied the requests because they did not meet criteria, including that the person went missing under suspicious circumstances and

believed by, and

to be civil servants

believe the person is

in danger.

But the denials have fueled concerns


communities that the system wanted to help locate

I miss

indigenous people

who go missing

does not work as intended.

We have had two successful Feather Alerts and numerous denials, said Taralyn Ipia

while talking about her sister Danielle, who went missing in June,

during a summer press conference Wednesday

in comments about her sister Danielle, who went missing in June

. She was later found and details about her case are limited. Refusing a Feather Alert based on opinions contradicts its basis [this] legislation.”

Now, policymakers in Sacramento are reevaluating how well the law is working

. More than that

a dozen

members of


s tribal member communities

collected at the


Capitol last week demanded information about the three denied missing persons reports. They are also asking to remove a statute that requires local law enforcement


to act as a buffer between tribes and the CHP, and instead open the door to cooperation between state and tribal police.

“The alert must be issued by CHP in the manner in which it is structured. But the


is the local law enforcement agency to which the request comes,” the spokesperson said

CHP Officer Sheriff Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol

Sean Duryee, who testified at the hearing. “Some are doing really well. What we’ve been told is that sometimes that’s the case


creates problems for the tribal communities.”

The point of

The Feather Alert, logged in

created by

a law passed in 2022,

is designed to create a system similar to

the Amber Alert, which has been in effect since the i

nception creation

established in 1996

more than over

1,100 missing children across the country. Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the first California Native American elected to the Legislature, argued that the state needed a separate system for missing indigenous people because of the high rates of violence and kidnappings in tribal communities. It is one of seven categories of missing persons reports in California.

New data shows the CHP approved all six Amber Alert requests it received in the same year it denied three


Feather warning



Leaders and members of nearby tribes


the state, including the Yurok and Me-wuk


arrived early at the


Capitol is asking for clarity on these requirements and


reports of missing persons must be dealt with urgently.

We can’t get in the middle of the California Highway Patrol and the tribe, Yurok Tribe Chairman Joe James said:

who lives

near the lower Klamath River. Why were they rejected?


There are 151 active cases of missing American Indians/Alaska Natives in California. At least one of the rejected Feather Alerts


came from Humboldt County, which currently has the highest number



Durye did not go into detail about the rejected cases during the hearing, citing privacy laws, but said the officer who responded to the requests


“I didn’t feel like the criteria was met.”

Tribal members said these denials are reminiscent of historical trauma related to decades of underreporting

fallen off

missing and murdered people the reason why




learns what was created in the first place.

There are so many factors that determine whether they are missing,




. The fact that someone does not qualify for Veeralarm does not mean that we wash our hands clean.

Duryee said


law enforcement agencies still have the power to perform traditional police work,

such as its use

license plate recognition or mobile phone data. Just because a warning hasn’t been issued doesn’t mean police aren’t working on it, he said.

During the emotional, hours-long hearing

preceded by

the Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs,



from different tribal nations

expressed distrust in the state’s system for reporting crimes and missing persons.

Merri Lopez Keifer,


director of Native Affairs for the California Department of Justice, tested that her team re-evaluate data on crimes against tribal members, citing possible misidentification of race and under-reporting.


missing persons report


allow for


a single breed category should be selected, which does not take into account the “extensive landscape and regional differences” in the state.

“This approach may miss potential cases involving multiracial individuals,”


said. “It is especially relevant in the context of American Indians/Alaska Natives, who are often racially misclassified as


Spanish or Asian.”

“We don’t necessarily know the number, it’s the truth,” she said.

Tribal communities are asking for changes

to be made

the law, including giving tribal law enforcement authority to issue Feather Alerts. Ramos said he plans to propose legislation in the coming weeks.

“Today’s hearing was intended to get ideas out there,”




Time. “And now we get to work.”


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