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Crimes Against Native American Women Increase To “Epidemic” Proportions

While our country remains embroiled in immigration rhetoric in the midst of racial tensions, there’s an urgent problem affecting Native American women. An op-ed featured in Bloomberg brings attention to a disturbing “epidemic” that shows the severity of crimes against one of the most vulnerable communities of women.

According to the report, more than half have been sexually assaulted, more than a third have been raped, and homicide is the third-leading cause of death for women aged 15-24. They also report that one of the biggest reasons crimes against this community continues to grow because there’s little law enforced within their reservation parameter.

“Tribal law agencies are understaffed,” Bloomberg reports. “The Navajo reservation contains roughly 350,000 residents on 17 million acres across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.” But these crime against Native American women aren’t just in the confines of their reservations, but outside of them too. According to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute, “in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.” All of that means is that Native American women are going missing, are killed, and it’s not going into a database — it’s as if their lives are meaningless.

The Savanna Act aims to change that. The legislation is being reintroduced by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “This legislation combats the epidemic of murdered and missing Native women and girls by improving the federal government’s response to addressing the crisis,” a press release states. “The bill increases coordination among all levels of law enforcement, improves data collection and information sharing, and empowers tribal governments with the resources they need in cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls wherever they occur.”

“It is long past time that Congress took action to help curb the tragic epidemic of violence toward Native American women,” Senator Cortez Masto said. “I’m proud to join Senator Murkowski in reintroducing Savanna’s Act, which gives local and Tribal law enforcement the federal resources they need to finally seek justice for the thousands of missing and murdered Native American women and their grieving families.”

The Savanna Act is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old who was murdered in North Dakota in 2017. Click here to learn more about this new policy that we hope gets signed.