Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congress passes bills to address missing and murdered Native Americans

Bills designed to address the issue of missing and murdered Native Americans that passed unanimously in the House Monday are headed to President Trump's desk to be signed into law.

Why it matters: The first bill, Savanna's Act, "addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans," said Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chair John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who co-sponsored the bill, in a statement.

The big picture: Savanna's Act is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe from Fargo, North Dakota, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed in 2017. Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) originally introduced the bill that year.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told HuffPost when she took over the lead of the bill in 2019, "Native women, because of their looks, can be viewed as more exotic, more Asian, and apparently there is a higher market for women that are of Asian descent. When I heard that, it just… It just sickens me."
  • Murkowski said in a statement Monday the legislation would improve coordination "among all levels of law enforcement, increases data collection and information sharing, and empowers tribal governments with access to the necessary law enforcement databases to help solve cold cases."
  • The second bill, the Not Invisible Act, "paves the way for greater collaboration between federal agencies, law enforcement, and elected tribal officials, ensuring Alaska Natives and survivors have a voice in developing methods to end these horrible crimes," Murkowski said.
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