Torres, Newhouse, Haaland Lead on Bipartisan Savanna’s Act in the U.S. House to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (D-CA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) reintroduced Savanna’s Act, a bill named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year old pregnant member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was tragically murdered in August 2017. Native American women face a murder rate ten times higher than the national average, with eighty-four percent experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime. There is still no reliable way of knowing how many Native women go missing each year because the databases that hold statistics of these cases are outdated, and because of a lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies. Savanna’s Act addresses the disturbing increase in murdered and missing Native American women by creating new guidelines for responding to such cases, and by incentivizing their implementation.
“There’s a crisis of missing and murdered Native women in this country. Savanna’s Act, if passed into law, would help resolve that crisis,” said Congresswoman Torres. “I’m grateful to my House and Senate colleagues for their hard work and support on this updated bill, and I look forward to working towards its swift passage.”
“Missing and murdered Native American women and their families deserve justice, and Congress must act,” said Congressman Newhouse. “I am proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce this improved version of Savanna’s Act to finally empower law enforcement agencies and tribes to effectively address this devastating issue that impacts communities in Central Washington and across the country.”
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own community, but Native American and Alaskan Native women continue to face murder rates that are ten times higher than the national average. It’s heartbreaking cases like Savanna Greywind, Ashlynne Mike, Judith Apache, and countless Native women and their families that are left behind that drive us to work for solutions to the silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. This long-standing epidemic will take time, resources, and dedication to resolve it—and we will find solutions. In this updated version of Savanna’s Act, I worked hard to prioritize the safety of Native women, including urban areas, to protect indigenous women throughout the country,” said Congresswoman Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
The new bill builds on previous versions of Savanna’s Act by expanding the requirement for the creation of law enforcement guidelines to all U.S. Attorneys, not just those with Indian Country jurisdiction, and requires such guidelines to be regionally appropriate. It also requires the Attorney General to publicly list the law enforcement agencies that comply with the provisions of the legislation. Finally, it includes a new implementation and incentive section that provides grant authority to law enforcement organizations to implement the provisions of the legislation, and increases the amount of those grants for those that comply.
Torres, Newhouse, and Haaland were joined in introducing the bill by original co-sponsors Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Tom Cole (R-OK), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Don Young (R-AK), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Paul Cook (R-CA), and Terri A. Sewell (D-AL).
Savanna’s Act was previously introduced in the 115th Congress by Torres and former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). The Senate passed the bill unanimously, but it did not receive consideration in the House. In January, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced the bill in the Senate. The bill text is available HERE and a section-by-section summary is available HERE.
Support for U.S. House of Representative’s Savanna’s Act
Savanna’s Act is endorsed by: National Congress of American Indians, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Seattle Indian Health Board, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Western Native Voice, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, All Pueblo Council of Governors (representing 20 Pueblos), Intertribal Association of Arizona (representing 21 Tribal Nations), United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (representing 27 Tribal Nation), Muckleshoot Tribe of Washington, and Navajo Nation.
“The All Pueblo Council of Governors is grateful for leadership of Representative Deb Haaland in her introduction of Savanna’s Act. We continue to support her call for a national investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous women as these women are not just statistics; they are someone’s mother, child, sister, aunt, or grandmother. The pain of loss and of justice denied to these women and families echoes through the history of Indian Country, and as Pueblo ways are guided by deeply held core values of love, respect, and compassion for one another, we are reminded of our collective responsibility to support one another in honoring their lives and protecting present and future generations of Native women.” – Chairman E. Paul Torres, All Pueblo Council of Governors
“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I would like to extend our gratitude to Congresswoman Haaland for introducing Savanna’s Act and incorporating provisions that will aid tribal and federal law enforcement agencies in addressing missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. I believe that extending law enforcement guidelines beyond Indian country is critical because we must also ensure our indigenous relatives living in urban communities are also protected and provided justice. I urge tribal leadership to support this Act and continue the fight to bring our missing relatives home and to give justice to those who left this world too soon,” said Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, a member of the 24th Navajo Nation Council.
“We appreciate Rep. Haaland’s relentless efforts to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native woman/girls and we applaud the passage of Savanna’s Act,” stated Maria Dadgar, Executive Director, Inter-Tribal Association of Arizona. “No real progress can be made regarding crimes against American Indian and Alaska Native Women without change on a national level. We are confident (and hopeful) that Savanna’s Act will serve as a “lightening rod” for change with regard to reporting crime data, increased funding for tribal law enforcement, and building new pathways for sharing vital information so that it can be used by law enforcement on and off reservation lands.”
“The disproportionately high rate at which American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women and girls experience violent crime in the United States is unconscionable. The federal government, in partnership with Tribal Nations, must do more to address this crisis. This includes ensuring Tribal Nations are able access the tools necessary to prevent these tragedies. Savanna’s Act is a critical step in this fight. USET SPF strongly supports the bill as an opportunity to begin to close the deep divide in protection and justice for AI/AN women and girls. Our lost sisters, mothers, and daughters cannot remain invisible and forgotten, as Tribal Nations work to navigate the jurisdictional maze that has grown up around Indian Country while the United States turns a blind eye. As Native peoples, our creator calls upon us to honor and respect the many sacred roles women and girls play in our societies, as well as protect their right to live free of violence. We call upon Congress for the immediate passage of Savanna’s Act, as well as other legislation aimed at ending the shameful disregard for missing and murdered Native women and girls,” said Chief Kirk Francis, USET SPF President.