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Bill Addressing Missing And Murdered Indigenous People Advances

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ALLISON HERRERA / KOSU
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Indigenous women march to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous Women at the 2019 Women's March in San Francisco, Calif.

The Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee advanced HB 1790, otherwise known as the Kasey Alert Act, during a meeting today. The bill is meant to tackle the problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Oklahoma.

The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 6-2, with Rep. Tom Gann (R-Inola) and Rep. Jay Stegall (R-Yukon) voting against the measure.

The bill is named after a 26-year-old Cherokee citizen named Kasey Russell, who went missing five years ago. It would allow law enforcement to send out an emergency message to phones and road safety signs, similar to an Amber Alert, for adults ages 18 to 59 who are believed to be in danger. Typically, police will wait 24 to 48 hours before they investigate the report of any missing adult.

While the bill is meant to address the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous people, it's also meant to help non-Indigenous families find their loved ones too.

"We are a top ten state when it comes to missing and murdered Indigenous people. And so, I think we need to acknowledge that fact and get help as much as possible," said Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), who authored the bill. "I think this bill does exactly that."

Last year, Oklahoma passed Ida's Law, which is supposed to make investigating missing and murdered Indigenous women easier for law enforcement.

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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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