A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to address a terrifyingepidemic passed the Senate last week.
The bill to help address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic unanimously passed the Senate Thursday night, just a few weeks after the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously voted to send Savanna’s Act to the Senate floor.”
The bill is now on its way to the House before it will reach the president’s desk.
Roosevelt County Undersheriff, John Summers said, “I don’t know a whole lot about this act, but it’s got to be a good thing.” Summers went on to note that Indigenous women are victimized at a much higher rate.
“Native American women need protection. We need to nip it in the bud or prevent it,” Summers added. While this isn’t too much of an issue in Fort Peck, Summers noted that this is something that is underreported. They also face jurisdiction issues as well.
Summers referenced a few cases that he knew about saying, “It’s good to be able to tie up loose ends and give closure to the families.” He added that city and tribal police do work together in Roosevelt County.
Tester was quoted in the press release saying, “All of us must work together to end this epidemic. Savanna’s Act would ensure we all have access to the most comprehensive data regarding these crimes and make sure law enforcement agencies are on the same page as they investigate this unacceptable epidemic.”
Wolf Point Chief of Police, Jeff Harada said that while it’s not a big problem in the area right now, it has been in the past. They have had kidnappings and rapes, but he feels that this is a nationwide epidemic.
When asked what he thought could be done to help eliminate the situation, Harada said, “Community involvement and programs that assist in this are a few things we can do. Good reporting and making sure to follow through with the prosecution of the suspect is also important.”
He noted that anything that can be done to assist and benefit victim and the families of victims is a good thing. “Anything we can do to assist is certainly the right thing to do,” Harada added. He noted that concentrating on assisting victims is an important part of what can be done.
“If we put ourselves in the victims or victim’s families shoes; that’s a priority. We would be devastated by a loss like that,” Harada said.
The press release also shared a staggering statistic that 80 percent of Native American women have experience violence. Tester serves as a senior member and was a former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
“Tester has worked hard to raise awareness about this epidemic, support survivors, and bring their assailants to justice,” the press release stated.
This act would demand the U.S. Department of Justice to do better when collecting and reporting crime data, as well as increasing the access to federal crime databases that track missing people throughout the Indian community.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., announced on Monday that the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a hearing this Wednesday on the issue of missing and murdered persons in Indian country. The announcement comes after Daines sent a letter to committee leadership requesting a hearing.
Daines said, “We face tragedies from across Montana where tribal citizens, particularly women and girls, go missing without a trace,” Daines said. “We must do all in our power to curb the crisis of American Indians and Alaska Natives who disappear and whose cases never see justice. I’m glad to see that the committee is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves. I look forward to hearing from Kimberly Loring HeavyRunner, Montanan and sister of missing Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, at the hearing.”
“We face tragedies from across Montana where tribal citizens, particularly women and girls, go missing without a trace,” Daines said. “We must do all in our power to curb the crisis of American Indians and Alaska Natives who disappear and whose cases never see justice. I’m glad to see that the committee is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves. I look forward to hearing from Kimberly Loring HeavyRunner, Montanan and sister of missing Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, at the hearing.”
According to the press release, “Savanna’s Act would also create standard guidelines for responding to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, laying out a clear framework for cooperation between tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement.”