Landmark legislation that would address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate on Monday.
If passed, Savanna’s Act would require the federal government to track the number of Native American people who are either murdered or disappear in the United States.
Right now, specific tracking requirements for the federal government don’t exist. Without that data, activists say it’s hard to address the issue.
“[The legislation] will actually make a significant impact on understanding the patterns of violence against native women,” said Moroni Benally, a policy coordinator with the tribal coalition Restoring Ancestral Winds. “It is the necessary start to actually begin making substantive, structural changes to this type of violence against native women.”
The bill was first introduced by former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in 2017. It passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate but was ultimately blocked by former U.S. House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
According to a December interview with the Roanoke Times, Goodlatte said he blocked the bill in part because the Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement organizations were against the legislation because it financially rewarded those who complied with the law.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) reintroduced Savanna’s Act on Monday.
Abigail Echo-Hawk, chief researcher with the Seattle Indian Health Board, is optimistic the bill will become law in 2019.
“We’re seeing really strong bipartisan support,” she said. “We’ve also seen mobilization not only of those living in urban settings but also on the reservations, native people, non-native people coming together and recognizing that there’s an epidemic of missing and murdered women.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.