One of the friends I made during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March is Matthew Lone Bear. I began to get to know him the first day of the march. We often found ourselves in the same position as he shot video and I took photographs. That meant we also had more time to spend together, and share our stories. It made me sad to learn about his experiences in searching for missing and murdered indigenous women. In the video below, Matthew speaks about laws in the North Dakota legislature to help with efforts to find missing people.
BISMARCK, N.D. – The murder of Savanna Greywind and the disappearance of Olivia Lone Bear exposed weaknesses in missing persons investigations in North Dakota.Missing person’s bill gets support from family of Olivia Lone Bear KFYRTV Bismark
The House passed two bills trying to fix some of those issues. Now the Senate is working on those bills.
House Bill 1313 would create a North Dakota specific database for missing persons. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation says every missing person is put into the national system run by the FBI but they can’t search that place for a list of every missing person in North Dakota.
Representative Ruth Buffalo, D-Fargo, says she wishes there was more data on missing persons, particularly with missing and murdered indigenous people. She says the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people has left many native communities on high alert.
Matthew Lone Bear, the brother of Olivia Lone Bear, supports the bills and the mission.
The epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women was the issue of greatest concern that I heard about during the Climate Unity March. A number of people have been working on this tragedy for some time.
In February, 2018, Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee both spoke about missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) when we were in Minneapolis demonstrating against US Bank’s funding of fossil fuel projects.
During the March, Foxy Onefeather carried this sign about MMIW:
Last November several of us who were on the March met with Senator Grassley’s staff in Des Moines to ask him to support Savannah’s Act and the Survive Act, which were related to a database for missing indigenous people and broadened tribal police powers. We had a good discussion, but Congress adjourned without the passage of either legislation.
Fortunately, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) says the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) H.R. 1585 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee March 13,2019.
On Wednesday, March 13, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1585, a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It now heads to the House floor for a full vote.Violence Against Women Act Passes Out of House Judiciary Committee, Lacina Onco, FCNL, March 13, 2019
H.R 1585 will greatly extend protections for Native women and girls, by expanding tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians to include crimes of sexual-assault, stalking, sex trafficking, and child abuse. Tribal officers who may be harmed while keeping the community safe are also protected under this legislation.
Additionally, this bill addresses the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women by calling for improved responses to missing cases, better communication between tribal, state, local and federal law enforcement, and enhanced data collection on missing cases, as well as tribal access to federal criminal databases.