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US Senators Reintroduce Bill Focusing On Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women

Blackfeet tribal member Theda New Breast holds up a list of all the people who went missing or were murdered on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.
Nate Hegyi / KUER
Blackfeet tribal member Theda New Breast holds up a list of all the people who went missing or were murdered on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.

Landmark legislation that would address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate on Monday.

If passed, Savanna’s Act would require the federal government to track the number of Native American people who are either murdered or disappear in the United States.

Right now, specific tracking requirements for the federal government don’t exist. Without that data, activists say it’s hard to address the issue.

“[The legislation] will actually make a significant impact on understanding the patterns of violence against native women,” said Moroni Benally, a policy coordinator with the tribal coalition Restoring Ancestral Winds. “It is the necessary start to actually begin making substantive, structural changes to this type of violence against native women.”

The bill was first introduced by former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in 2017. It passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate but was ultimately blocked by former U.S. House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

According to a December interview with the Roanoke Times, Goodlatte said he blocked the bill in part because the Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement organizations were against the legislation because it financially rewarded those who complied with the law.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) reintroduced Savanna’s Act on Monday.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, chief researcher with the Seattle Indian Health Board, is optimistic the bill will become law in 2019.

“We’re seeing really strong bipartisan support,” she said. “We’ve also seen mobilization not only of those living in urban settings but also on the reservations, native people, non-native people coming together and recognizing that there’s an epidemic of missing and murdered women.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit .

Nate Hegyi is a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau based at Yellowstone Public Radio.
Nate Hegyi
Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.