09.21.20

Savanna's Act unanimously passes US House, awaits President Donald Trump's signature

Savanna's Act, a bipartisan bill that addresses the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic, unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday.

The bill unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in March and now awaits President Donald Trump's signature.

Named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old pregnant Spirit Lake tribal member who was killed in 2017, Savanna's Act requires federal agencies to update databases and create protocols to guide law enforcement entities.

Specifically, the bill requires the U.S. Department of Justice to provide training to law enforcement agencies on data entry, educate the public on the database, help tribes and Indigenous communities enter information in the database, develop guidelines for response to missing or murdered Indigenous people, provide technical assistance to tribes and report data on missing or murdered Native Americans.

Savanna's Act is a bipartisan bill named in honor of Savanna Greywind, who was killed in 2017.
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Native American women experience violence at disproportionately high rates. In 2016 alone, there were 5,712 reported missing and murdered Indigenous women cases, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.

But the report acknowledges the number is likely an undercount due to a lack of reporting. Of those 5,712 cases, the Urban Indian Health Institute found that 116 were logged in the Department of Justice database. Without accurate data, it's especially difficult for law enforcement agencies and communities to quell violence against Native Americans.

Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., introduced the bill in 2019 with 20 bipartisan lawmakers.

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“Passage of Savanna’s Act brings us one step closer to ending this epidemic by upgrading critical data and improving communication among law enforcement. I look forward to President Trump signing our bipartisan bill into law," Gianforte said in an email.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. said the passage of Savanna's Act "puts us one step closer to securing better tools for combating the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons."

“This is big news for Montana Tribes, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) advocates, and victims of violence who have worked tirelessly to get these pieces of legislation where they are today, and I’m proud to have helped shepherd these bills through Congress. I urge the president to sign these bills immediately so that Native American communities can use these resources as soon as humanly possible," he said in a statement.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said the MMIW "crisis in Montana is devastating."

“I'm glad to see the House pass my legislation to support our tribal communities and provide resources to overcome this crisis. I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law," he said.


By:  Nora Mabie
Source: Great Falls Tribune