Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children: Part II
Real Hope for the Future!
May 5th was Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Day. For the last few years, Native women have gathered on this day to memorialize MMIWC victims and raise awareness of this multi-decade plague. Their public gatherings included art exhibits, virtual vigils, virtual fun-runs, and marches. It is fair to say that the tenacity of these activists was the impetus behind new federal and state actions in late 2019 and early 2020 to address the missing and murdered indigenous women and children crisis in the U.S.
The Federal Government Appears to Be No Longer Blind to MMIWC and Passes Savanna’s Act
Savanna’s Act established national law enforcement guidelines between the federal government and American Indian tribes to help track, solve, and prevent crimes against Native Americans. Once implemented, these guidelines will eliminate the dark holes that have swallowed many MMIWC cases in the past. The law honors Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind. The 22-year-old Spirit Lake tribal member from North Dakota was murdered in 2017.
In November 2019, Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK) worked with Bob Casey (D-PA), in a bipartisan effort seeking justice for missing and murdered indigenous people across the U.S. They co-wrote two bills that focused on law enforcement’s ability to solve indigenous cases and begin to stem the flow of unsolved murders and disappearances.
Prior to the bill, Native American reservation jurisdictions for the handling of missing people overlapped. The Bureau of Indian Affairs often starts the investigation, which must then be passed to the FBI. Jurisdictional agreements often caused delays in the investigations. If missing individuals are found murdered, the crimes would often go unsolved.
Murkowski and Casey understood that law enforcement lacked the data and information needed to coordinate a response to these widespread cold cases. Therefore, the priority of the new legislation was first to gain understanding of the full extent of the problem in each state. Most states have completed yearlong studies of the situations in their jurisdictions and are taking, or will soon take the next step.
The government approved the $1.5 million federal investment for developing coordinated law enforcement responses to missing persons cases. The investment will fund 11 FBI coordinators to close federal reporting gaps and implement a protocol for a more rapid response between jurisdictions when a person is reported missing.
The Not Invisible Act also creates a new position within the Interior Department dealing specifically with murder, trafficking, and missing Native Americans, and forms a new joint advisory committee between the Interior and Justice Departments on those issues.
What can you do?
- Help stem vulnerability to violence. Consider supporting, https://www.indigenousjustice.org/Restoring Justice for Indigenous People (RJIP)
- Consider supporting scholarships for Native students through the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, http://www.aihec.org
3. Understand that like all people of color, Native people experience covert and overt racism every day. Be kind.
“Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.” Tecumseh