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'The Silent Crisis': U.S. House Passes Two Bills To Address Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women


On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills aimed at protecting Native American women from violence.

Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin co-sponsored Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Both passed the House on Monday and are expected to be signed by President Trump.

“The silent crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is wreaking havoc on our families and our communities,” said Mullin. “Our priority must be to protect native women and children and all parties have to work together to end this epidemic of violence. Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to address the crisis and will help prevent our sisters from becoming a statistic. I was proud to cosponsor both of these bills and I look forward to seeing President Trump sign them into law soon.”

Savanna's Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine Grey-Wind, a Spirit Lake Sioux tribal citizen. She was murdered in December of 2017 after being kidnapped by a couple in Fargo, North Dakota.

Savanna's Act would provide tribes and law enforcement training and technical assistance.

Mullin says that training is needed because of some of the jurisdictional gaps that exist on tribal land. He also says he's disgusted by the statistics he sees.

"Eighty percent of all Native men and women experience violence on tribal land," said Mullin. "And 34% of all Native women experience some type of sexual violence in their lifetime. That's horrific."

Savanna's Act would allow the cross-deputization of local and tribal law enforcement so that both can respond to calls when an emergency occurs. Muscogee (Creek) Nation is one example of a tribe that cross deputizes and works with local law enforcement. However, other Tribes law enforcement in states like Minnesota and South Dakota may not have those same provisions. Savanna's Act would allow for that.

The Not Invisible Act would establish a committee on violent crime made up of law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, and survivors. That committee would make recommendations to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice.

Mullin says the committee is there to bring understanding between parties, provide advocacy for victims and cultural competency for outside agencies.

"One crime like this, is one too many," said Mullin.

Last year, President Trump created Operation Lady Justice, a task force that looks at missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The task force consults with tribes on what many people have called an "epidemic" in communities.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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