WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today applauded the House passage of Savanna’s Act—legislation to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing Native women and girls by improving the federal government’s response to the emergency.
The legislation was passed by the Senate with bipartisan support on March 11, 2020, and is now headed to the president’s desk.
“Murder rates for Native women are 10 times that of the national average,” said Merkley. “Today’s House passage of Savanna’s Act is a welcome step forward in our fight to shed light on this disturbing crisis and to get these women, and Native communities, the long overdue justice they deserve. I strongly encourage the president to sign this bill into law, and will continue to stand up, speak out, and find legislative solutions to help address this tragic problem.”
“The appalling number of killings and abductions of Native women is deeply troubling and requires a federal response that matches the gravity of these horrible crimes,” Wyden said. “Savanna’s Act provides the path to justice that’s needed for these women as well as their families and loved ones who have waited far too long for a plan of action.”
In October of 2017, former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) first introduced Savanna’s Act, the first piece of major legislation specifically addressing missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The legislation is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in Fargo, North Dakota.
Savanna’s Act aims to bridge the gap of the limited data on the number of missing Native women by directing the U.S. Department of Justice to formulate new guidelines for the reporting of violent crimes against indigenous people. The bill improves tribal access to certain federal crime information databases by mandating that the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior consult with tribes on how to further improve these databases and access to them. It also requires certain federal agencies to solicit recommendations from tribes on enhancing the safety of Native women.
Specifically, the bill:
- Improves tribal access to certain federal crime information databases and mandates that the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior consult with Indian tribes on how to further develop these databases and access to them;
- Requires the DOJ, Interior, and HHS to solicit recommendations from tribes on enhancing the safety of Native women and improving access to crime information databases and criminal justice information systems during the annual consultations mandated under the Violence Against Women Act;
- Requires the creation of standardized guidelines for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans, in consultations with tribes, which will include guidance on inter-jurisdictional cooperation among tribes and federal, state, and local law enforcement; and
- Requires statistics on missing and murdered Native women, and recommendations on how to improve data collection, to be included in an annual report to Congress.