OKLAHOMA CITY – A new Oklahoma law pinpointed in helping families of missing and murdered indigenous individuals went into effect on Nov. 1.

Ida’s Law, named after Ida Beard, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes missing since 2005, was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt in April.

The bill states that upon securing federal funding, an Office of Liaison Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons will be established.  This program coordinates efforts and gathers data to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous persons in the state of Oklahoma.

It is certainly long overdue, said Lisa Arnold, Wyandotte Nation Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advocate referring the new law.

American Indian women are victimized at a rate much higher than other ethnicities, she said.

“Time is valuable, and it can mean life or death when it comes to a missing person,” Arnold said.  

Family members should not be reduced to hanging up posters as their only course of action as though they were searching for a lost pet, she said.

“In the past, the American Indian people weren’t even recognized in Missing and Murdered statistics,” Arnold said. “We were lumped into ‘other’ category.”

“Families deserve definitive action in recovering their lost loved ones,” Arnold said.

With Ida’s Law, families can now report directly to the Oklahoma Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, she said. The new database can properly document those individuals who go missing while the agent acting as the liaison will start investigating the cases and meeting with tribes, Arnold said.   

In the past, these actions rested with the families.  

“This is daunting for anyone especially when you are not trained or do not have the established contacts,” Arnold said.

The damage has been done in the past – hopefully, this will be a start to families receiving the justice they deserve, she said.

In Delaware and Craig Counties, three Cherokee Nation citizens are missing.

Lauria Bible, 16 of Bluejacket, has been missing since Dec. 30, 1999; Aubrey Dameron, 25, of Grove, has been missing since March 2019 and  Christopher Teel, 32, of Jay, has not been seen since Jan. 1, 2017.

“We applaud the creation and permanent staffing of an Oklahoma State Bureau office to take on the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a prepared statement.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Director Ricky Adams is taking steps to implement the bill despite the lack of funding at this point.

“Every life is important,” Adams said.

“Our goal is to work with our law enforcement partners at all levels – tribal, local, state and federal – to ensure every case involving American Indian individuals is thoroughly investigated,” Adams said. OSBI has high-tech resources and other tools available to the tribes to help solve cases, he said.