WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined in introducing legislation led by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing Native women and girls. Native women are murdered at ten times the national average, and 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. The bill, Savanna’s Act, is named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was tragically killed in August.
“All people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background should have the same right to live free from domestic and sexual violence. Unfortunately, Native women and girls face appalling levels of violence, exploitation and murder,” said Senator Heinrich. “This bill takes steps to improve the federal government’s response to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women both in New Mexico and nationwide. With tribal law enforcement and federal agencies working together to improve data collection and standardize protocols, we can work to stop this epidemic and keep communities in New Mexico safe.”
Senator Heinrich cosponsored the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was signed into law in 2013. Since its inception, VAWA has significantly reduced domestic violence by funding programs that protect women and children from abuse. The bipartisan 2013 reauthorization extends protections to LGBT and immigrant communities, and helps combat domestic violence in Indian Country.
Specifically, Savanna’s Act would:
- Improve tribal access to certain federal crime information databases. The bill would update the data fields to be more relevant to Native Americans, and mandate that the Attorney General consult with Tribes on how to further improve these databases and their access to them. The Attorney General would then submit a report to Congress on how the U.S. Department of Justice plans to implement the suggestions and resolve the outstanding barriers Tribes face in acquiring full access to these databases.
- Require the Attorney General, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Health and Human Services to solicit recommendations from Tribes on improved access to local, regional, state, and federal crime information databases and criminal justice information systems during the annual consultations mandated under the Violence Against Women Act.
- Create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans. These protocols would take place in consultation with Tribes, which would include guidance on inter-jurisdictional cooperation among tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement.
- Require an annual report to Congress with data. The report would include statistics on missing and murdered Native women, since there is little data on this problem and there isn’t a central location for keeping that information. The report would also include recommendations on how to improve data collection.