Savanna’s Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Ruben Gallego, passes the House
Congress has passed Savanna's Act, addressing the crisis of sexual violence, missing cases, and murders of Indigenous women.
For Native women, a life of constant risk to violence is the norm. However, the severity of the issue did not become known on a national scale until recent years.
It’s been a crisis for a “painfully long time,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told the Huffington Post. And it is only now that victims are garnering a semblance of attention.
On Monday, a bill seeking to address the long-standing issue finally passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Savanna’s Act will help address the violence epidemic plaguing women in Indigenous communities. The bill would increase data coordination and collection, along with providing a roadmap for law enforcement response to reports of such violence.
The legislation was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe who, in 2017, was abducted and murdered while pregnant in Fargo, N.D.
Savanna's Act was introduced to the Senate in that same year, spending years stalled before its eventual passage.
The House also passed the Not Invisible Act on Monday, a bill passed by the Senate in March that would make the federal government increase efforts to investigate missing and murdered Indigenous women, or those forced into sex trafficking.
Both bills now head to the president’s desk.
Rep. Ruben Gallego is among 60 cosponsors of Savanna’s Act, which passed the Senate earlier this year.
“Last year, I held the first-ever House hearing on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women,” wrote Rep. Gallego.
“This week, the House passed Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act by voice vote, taking key first steps to combat this crisis. We can’t let up in our fight to protect Native women & girls,” he continued.
Last year, I held the first-ever House hearing on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.
This week, the House passed Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act by voice vote, taking key first steps to combat this crisis.
We can’t let up in our fight to protect Native women & girls. https://t.co/jhVcxYhSaQ
— Ruben Gallego (@RepRubenGallego) September 23, 2020
Only about 2% of missing and murdered Indigenous cases were logged with the U.S. Justice Department in 2016, despite the murder rate of Native American women on some tribal lands being at 10 times above the national average.
“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,” Sen. John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement.
“At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice,” Hoeven continued.
Native reservations and territories are often neglected by the United States, in both attention and resources. Such cases also don’t garner as much attention in the media because of the larger issue of systemic racism and lack of visibility.
The issue, while it is now being addressed, did not manifest on its own.