WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women cleared two big hurdles in Congress on Wednesday.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Savanna’s Act, sending it to the full House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Senate’s version of the bill was approved by the full Senate in the afternoon.
Among other steps, the legislation would improve data collection and information sharing, standardize law enforcement protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and provide tribal governments with more resources.
Savanna’s Act was introduced in the Senate by Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Cantwell has mentioned the Yakama Reservation in comments on the bill. It’s unknown exactly how many Native women and girls, and men and boys, have gone missing, have been murdered and have died mysteriously on and around the 1.3-million-acre reservation over decades.
“Finally there is recognition of the urgency of helping Native American women with Senate passage of this bill. Hopefully new law enforcement tools will be on the way when the House does its work,” Cantwell said after Wednesday’s vote.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside; joined Reps. Norma Torres, D-California; and Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, in introducing Savanna’s Act in the House last May. Newhouse has convened several meetings in the Yakima Valley to hear from family members of missing and murdered indigenous women, tribal leaders and law enforcement.
Newhouse plans another meeting in Yakima, open to the public, from 4-7 p.m. April 9 in the Perry Technical Institute auditorium.
“This issue has impacted our Native friends and neighbors in Central Washington and across the country for decades, and I applaud the House Judiciary Committee for finally taking action on this bipartisan effort,” Newhouse said. “I will continue to work on behalf of the loved ones affected by this crisis to bring this important legislation to the House floor for a vote.”