Hopi Special Agent Returns Home to Seek Justice for Tribal Communities

May 3, 2024

For FBI Special Agent Piere Himel, investigating Indian Country Crime on reservations in New Mexico is more than just a job: it’s a homecoming.

As a Native American with deep ties to the land and its traditions, his journey to the FBI is unique. Named after his great-grandfather, a Navy sailor and survivor of the Bataan Death March, Himel comes from a family legacy of service.

“I’m Hopi, and I’m enrolled with the Hopi Tribe,” said Himel. “Our reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, so this job brings me back, closer to home.”

The FBI collaborates with Tribal police and other law enforcement agencies to investigate the most serious crimes that occur within its jurisdiction on about 200 reservations nationwide. FBI victim specialists, professional staff, and special agents work closely with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal police to achieve justice.

“My background gives me an understanding of the history of the interactions between Tribal communities and an understanding of the culture,” he said. “No matter who you are or your background, these aren’t easy cases, and it takes the willingness to work and to put in the effort to get justice.”

Himel joined the FBI after serving in the U.S. Army Reserve and a career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). He served as a corrections officer with BIA’s Hopi Agency and then as a BIA police officer on the Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota. His connection to Tribal traditions and the region makes Himel a critical resource to Tribal communities and to the Bureau.

Himel and his wife, Rikki, after presenting to the Albuquerque Field Office during a 2023 National Native American Heritage Month event.

Violence Impacting Indigenous Communities

Himel’s fond childhood memories of hunting, hauling coal, and Tribal ceremonies coupled with the harsh realities of reservation life underscore the importance of Himel’s current work. He is acutely aware of the disproportionate impact of violent crime on Native American communities, a crisis highlighted by the National Day of Awareness for Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons on May 5, 2024.

“Across Indian country, I think it’s something that impacts everybody—my own extended family included,” Himel said, highlighting the urgency of addressing the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous persons.

For almost 30 years, the FBI has joined forces with Tribal law enforcement and federal partners on reservations nationwide through Safe Trails Task Forces. But historical injustices and ongoing violent crime leave communities understandably skeptical, making building trust with victims difficult. Himel emphasizes the importance of not just acknowledging the issue but recognizing the critical need for collaboration and partnership between Tribal and other law enforcement agencies.

“Indian country is interconnected—so working there allows me to address some of the same problems of crime and missing and murder cases that affect my home community,” he said.

“Indian country is interconnected—so working there allows me to address some of the same problems of crime and missing and murder cases that affect my home community.”

FBI Special Agent Piere Himel

Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer

Before joining the FBI in 2019, Himel served as a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer.

Besides Himel’s interconnected background, he also finds support for his investigative work through the FBI’s victim services in Indian country who help ensure victims receive the rights they are entitled to and the assistance they need.

“The victim specialists are important to all our cases,” Himel said. “They make it so we can focus on the case. It would be very difficult to work a case without victim services.”

Preserving Hopi Heritage

Himel is proud of his heritage and the Hopis who helped pave the way for him, including the Hopi Code Talkers, who developed a code language used to assist U.S. military efforts during World War II.

“Everyone knows about the Navajo Code Talkers, but there were code talkers from a lot of Tribes throughout the United States, including Hopi,” Himel said. “Some were my extended family and relatives.”

Beyond his investigative duties, Himel remains committed to preserving Native heritage and language. As a member of the FBI’s American Indian and Alaska Native Advisory Committee, he advocates for initiatives promoting cultural sensitivity and inclusivity within the Bureau.

It is about acknowledging the importance of language and understanding, Himel explained. Words matter, especially when it comes to fostering stronger relationships with Native communities.

Reflecting on his journey, Himel’s pride in his community and heritage is apparent. “Becoming an FBI agent is something I’m proudest of,” he said. “There’s no one from my community of more than 20,000 that is an FBI agent—I’m the only one.”

But he doesn’t want it to stay that way, explaining it takes more people and resources to make an impact.

“I didn’t think my path would lead me here,” said Himel. “But it’s doable—and showing people in Indian country that this is something you can be and something you can accomplish is important.”

Himel credits his military training as contributing to his success as an FBI agent.


Source: himel-and-his-wife-rikki.jpeg (1048×1371) (fbi.gov)