Savanna’s Act Passed in the U.S. Senate

One of the things I learned from my Native friends as we walked together on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March the first week of September, was about the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women. Many of the marchers have been very involved with this problem in a variety of ways, discussed in more detail here.

One of the main goals of the March was the opportunity for Native and non-native people to have the chance to get to know each other so we can work on issues of common concern after the March. One of the first occasions we had to do that was when several of us met with Senator Grassley’s Iowa Director, Carol Olson, in Des Moines. The intention was for us to begin what we hope will be an ongoing relationship with Carol and others on the Senator’s staff. During this meeting we talked about Savanna’s Act and the SURVIVE Act.

Jeff, Fox, Shazi, Christine, Shari and Sid

On December 6, 2018, the U.S. Senate passed Savanna’s Act (S.1942). The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to vote for this Act.

Here is the link to an excellent summary of Savanna’s Act on the website of Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who introduced the bill.  Following is from her website:

Across rural North Dakota, women living on reservations face unique challenges when dealing with violence. Access to telephones, transportation, emergency services, law enforcement officers and confidential victim services all act as barriers to getting the help they desperately need. According to a 2016 National Institute of Justice Report, 56% of Native women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and 38% were unable to receive any type of victim services. The high rates of sexual violence are closely interconnected with the likelihood of Native women going missing or being murdered, and on some reservations, they are murdered at more than ten times the national average.

Although the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 and the Tribal Law and Order Act have helped bring attention to the high rates of violence against Native women, there is still no reliable way of knowing how many Native women go missing each year. In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing Native women reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), compared to 5,712 total Native women cases reported in the United States. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as cases of missing Native women are often under-reported and the data has never been officially collected.

That’s why I introduced the Savanna’s Act in October 2017 – legislation that would help combat the crisis of murdered and missing Native women and girls.

From the Seeding Sovereignty website“Over 90 percent of Native American women have experienced some sort of violence in their lifetime. 86% of those women are sexual assaulted by a non-tribal member. Tribal courts can’t try non-Native individuals, which means non-natives can commit crimes on Native American land—including sexual assault—with virtually zero consequence.”

At this year’s Women’s March, Christine Nobiss said, “This (Women’s) March is about many things, but primarily it is about empowering women. The reality is that Native American and Alaska Native women endure the highest rates of rape and assault in this country. Older statistics told us that one in three Native American women will be raped or experience sexual assault in their lifetime, but recently that statistic has been moved to 1 in 2…”

Foxy Onefeather holds a painting about this crisis by Jackie Fawn during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

Foxy Onefeather

“The story of this piece is of a sister being engulfed by the blacksnake, and its poison. She holds a candle that has burned for what seem like an endless time in the darkness. Protecting her spirit are two red butterflies that carry the prayers of the people for our murdered and missing. For our women and children we must rise. For our water and the connection that the earth and women share, we must rise. For their futures, we rise.” – Jackie Fawn

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