WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of Congress spent an hour on the House floor on Wednesday talking about ways to deliver justice to Native American women who face disproportionately high rates of murder, as well as physical and sexual violence.U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Sunnyside, and others spoke about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, according to a news release. His Central Washington district is home to the Yakama and Colville reservations.
He was joined by a bipartisan group of members from across the country who represent Native communities disproportionately affected by violence for decades.
“Native women throughout the country face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average, with 84 percent experiencing some kind of violence in their lifetimes,” Newhouse said in his remarks. “In my home state of Washington, Native Americans make up about 2 percent of the population, but a recent report by the Washington State Patrol shows that indigenous women account for 7 percent of the state’s reported missing women.”
The MMIW crisis affects urban and rural areas, Newhouse said. It’s unknown how many women and girls have gone missing and have been murdered on the 1.3-million-acre Yakama Reservation. Many cases are unsolved.
Newhouse highlighted several of those cases.
“We don’t even have accurate data to truly understand the breadth of this problem. There’s no real way to know,” he said.
He noted that he and colleagues have introduced several pieces of legislation designed to improve collaboration between law enforcement agencies and empower them to seriously work toward solving the unsolved cases.
In September, Newhouse joined a bipartisan group led by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, to introduce the Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act. The bill would help address the crisis by supporting law enforcement agency data sharing and officer recruitment and retention, officials said.
It would also ensure that tribes continue important programs that work to increase public safety by making them permanent, a news release said.
Earlier this year, Newhouse and Reps. Haaland and Norma Torres, D-Calif., introduced Savanna’s Act, a bill that aims to increase coordination between law enforcement agencies and enhance reporting and record-keeping for cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, a cosponsor of Savanna’s Act, said in just the past few years, “we have had 6,000 Native American women go missing ... and just a handful of those cases have been logged with the Department of Justice.
“In that way, our federal government is not doing enough to combat this problem,” Johnson added.
Other speakers on Wednesday included Reps. Greg Gianforte of Montana, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Don Bacon of Nebraska and Xochitl Torres-Small of New Mexico.