Five Things the Savannah Act Means for Indian Country

Savannah LaFontaine Greywind

Published December 8, 2018

WASHINGTON — With the Senate passage of S. 1942 is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind from North Dakota, who was tragically murdered in 2017, the  bill nows move on to the House of Represenatives for approval and, once passed, will move on to the White House for the signature of the president.

When enacted, the Savanna Act will:

  1. Improve tribal access to federal databases that track missing and unidentified persons, specifically American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  2. Require the Department of Justice to consult with Indian tribes while developing national law enforcement and justice guidelines when responding to cases involving missing and murdered Indians.
  3. Incentivize federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to incorporate these guidelines into existing processes.
  4. Provide Indian tribes and law enforcement agencies with training and technical assistance relating to the implementation of the guidelines developed under this Act.
  5. Mandate annual reporting to Congress on known statistics relating to missing and murdered Indians in the United States.

After passage in the Senate on Thursday, Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) issued this statement:

“Savanna’s Act will provide Indian tribes with better access to databases that track missing and unidentified persons across the country. This will help bring greater awareness regarding tragic cases of missing and murdered Indians in the United States.”

The unanimous passage of Savanna’s Act, authored by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), comes only weeks after the Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) released a new report that found 506 cases of missing and murdered Native women and girls nationwide.

“We can no longer sweep these statistics under the rug. This problem is more than real – it’s horrifying. And it must be answered,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).

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