Heitkamp bill on missing, murdered Native American women passes Senate

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The U.S. Senate today voted unanimously to pass Savanna’s Act, a Heidi Heitkamp sponsored bill designed to address the issue of missing and murdered Native American women. 

The legislation is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in Fargo in 2017. 

According to statistics cited by Heitkamp’s office, Native American women on some reservations are killed at a rate 10 times the national average. 

In 2016, North Dakota had 125 reported cases of missing Native American women, according to the National Crime Information Center. 

Heitkamp called called the statistics examples of a crisis that has gone ignored and unreportesd. 

 “Today’s unanimous passage of Savanna’s Act in the U.S. Senate is a major step in raising awareness about this growing epidemic,” Heitkamp said in a prepared statement. “By improving tribal access to federal law enforcement databases, we are protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens and putting guidelines in place to potentially save lives.” 

Savanna’s Act will improve data on tribal victims by requiring the Department of Justice to include tribal enrollment data in crime information databases, raise public and tribal awareness of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, and report statistics each year on missing and murdered Native Americans. 

The legislation will also improve tribal access to crime information databases and create locally developed guidelines for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

In April a bill sponsored by Heitkamp and Arizona Senator John McCain was signed into law which would expand the Amber Alert child abduction warning system into reservations. 

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