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Savanna’s Act: House sends bipartisan bill to address missing and murdered Native Americans to Trump’s desk

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Savanna’s Act, a bill named for 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, passed the US House of Representatives on Monday after passing the Senate earlier this year. LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, was abducted and killed in Fargo, North Dakota, in August 2017 while eight months pregnant.

The measure requires the Justice Department to develop guidelines for responding to cases of missing or murdered Native Americans and report statistics on those cases. The bill also instructs the department to provide trainings for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate in March after Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski reintroduced the legislation, which was first introduced in 2017 by then-North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Savanna’s Act initially passed the Senate in 2018 but was blocked in the House. Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, reintroduced the bill in 2019, with more than two dozen senators named as co-sponsors.

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans,” North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement Monday.

“We appreciate our House colleagues for passing the bill today and sending it on to the president to become law. At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice,” he continued.

Advocates have pushed for more state and federal data on missing and murdered Native Americans. Many of those victims experienced domestic or sexual violence or were victims of human trafficking, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.
The Justice Department has reported that on some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.

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