Operation Not Forgotten
Initiative surged resources to support women and children in Indigenous communities
Who gets the car?
This was the problem Special Agents Derek Kay and his colleague were trying to solve from a carjacking case years earlier in Yakama, Washington. The original case agent retired, and the pair were trying to wrap up loose ends.
They drove to the home of the last person involved in the case to see if they wanted the car back. But that person didn’t speak English. So, they phoned a colleague to help translate.
For Special Agent Kay, this all felt right at home. Before joining the Bureau, he was a police officer in Chicago for 15 years, and this was the kind of day he’d have. He could go from an armed robbery scene to setting up undercover work within one shift. He also did plenty of interviews.
After a few minutes, the agents got their answer—the individual didn’t want the car. The pair headed back to the office.
So began Special Agent Kay’s 39th day working on a Native American reservation as part of Operation Not Forgotten, an FBI initiative that detailed 40 special agents, intelligence analysts, staff operational specialists, and victim specialists to 10 FBI field offices whose designated regions support women and children in Indigenous communities. During the resource surge, investigators handled over 220 cases.
Yakama was not what Kay expected; more specifically, the climate was not what he expected. His home office is in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he works on the Safe Streets Task Force focusing primarily on gang and drug activity. The Yakama Indian Reservation, meanwhile, is 100 miles southeast of Seattle.
The drive takes just over two hours. Along the way, the lush forestry of northwest Washington, with its gloomy, overcast skies, seamlessly transitions into rolling tan mountains with brown rocks and tough desert fauna. It is hot, sunny, and dry in Yakama—resembling Corpus Christi more than the neighboring Seattle.
"You might not work these kinds of violations anywhere else in the FBI."
Special Agent Derek Kay
Yakama Indian Reservation
The Operation Not Forgotten initiative, along with the FBI’s broader Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) strategy, emphasizes the FBI’s continued dedication to address the violence impacting Indigenous communities. When the initiative was announced, agents like Kay from across the Bureau volunteered for temporary assignments in Indian Country.
On the Yakama Reservation, Kay worked a range of investigations, including those related to homicide, missing persons, gangs, and crimes against children.
“You might not work these kinds of violations anywhere else in the FBI,” he said. “For agents working in Indian Country, it’s the closest thing to being a local police detective.”
In another investigation, Kay tried to locate a child sexual assault victim to see if they would be pressing charges. He and a Yakama Police detective met to share updates on the case and went together to the interview. Unfortunately, the victim wasn’t home, so Kay left his phone number and hoped for a call back. He also drove around the reservation hoping to find the victim before heading back to the FBI office in Yakama.
The assignment to Indian Country has been eye-opening, he said. It's given him an opportunity to work closely with Native American partners in a part of the country where the mission is so critical.
There are multiple tribal detectives Kay now works with regularly, having quickly established a rapport. “You investigate crime scenes, generate leads, conduct interviews, and make arrests,” Kay said. “All of this is done in partnership with the tribal and local law enforcement.”