- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Savanna’s Act, which addresses the disturbing increase in missing and murdered Native American women by creating new guidelines for responding to such cases, and by incentivizing various law enforcement agencies to implement them.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, was joined Monday by Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to celebrate the passage of Savanna’s Act.
The bill is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was brutally murdered in 2017. LaFontaine-Greywind was a pregnant 22-year-old tribal citizen of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota.
Savanna’s Act passed the Senate in 2018, but was blocked in the House. As Section 2 of Savanna’s Act notes, Indigenous women face more violence than any other group. According to the National Institute of Justice, at least 84 percent of Indigenous women have been the target of sexual or other violence in their lifetimes.
The bill passed in the Senate on March 11, 2020 before passing today in the House of Representatives. It passed unanimously in both chambers, and now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
The lawmakers released the following statements:
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, but Native American and Alaskan Native women continue to face murder and violence at rates that should make our country ashamed,” Rep. Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, said. “Savanna Greywind’s story is heartbreaking and the fact that there are an unknown number of stories like hers is terrifying. This long-standing epidemic will take time, resources, and dedication to resolve it—and today we’re taking a major step by passing Savanna’s Act to improve data collection of missing and murdered indigenous women which is critical to solving this problem. Representatives Torres and Newhouse were great partners as I worked hard to prioritize the safety of all Native women, on and off Tribal lands, with this bill.”
“Native women have endured horrific rates of assault, rape and murder for far too long, and innocent people like Savanna have been lost with too little effort spent on ending this scourge,” Rep. Torres said. “That shameful reality stops today. I am incredibly grateful to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who joined forces with me to champion Savanna’s Act throughout the legislative process and usher it to a successful vote today. While we celebrate this victory, every one of us knows it’s bittersweet. I hope this vote brings some closure to the countless family members in Native communities who live with the pain of a lost loved one every day. Their unwavering advocacy made this day a reality, and an untold number of lives will be saved as a result.”
“The issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women has been a crisis for such a painfully long time. Many tribal advocates and family members of those affected worked so tirelessly on this issue, and I am proud to have worked alongside them to elevate this crisis at the local, state, and national level. The bipartisan action we have seen, from tribal communities to the administration, has been significant. With the Senate’s passage of Savanna’s Act now in both Congressional chambers, we are not just making headway, we are taking the necessary steps to make real, lasting change,” Sen. Murkowski said. “Today is a big victory in our fight to provide justice for victims, healing for their families, and protection for women and children across the nation.”
“Earlier this year, the Senate took an important step forward in addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women and girls,” Sen. Cortez Masto said. “I am proud to see the House following suit today by passing Savanna’s Act to give local and Tribal law enforcement the federal resources they need to address this crisis. Today’s vote brings us one step closer to finally acting to protect our Native sisters, mothers and daughters—and to honoring the memory of those taken. The Silver State is home to many Native communities that have long lacked the resources to adequately address this issue, and today’s House passage of Savanna’s Act begins to close that gap.”
Savanna’s Act was previously introduced in the 115th Congress. The Senate passed the bill unanimously, but it did not receive consideration in the House. In January 2019, Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto reintroduced the bill in the Senate, and in May 2019, Reps. Haaland, Torres and Newhouse reintroduced it in the House.
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