Torres and Cole Introduce Savanna's Act to Protect Native American Women and Girls
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced Savanna’s Act, a bill named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year old pregnant member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was tragically murdered in August. The legislation addresses the disturbing increase in murdered and missing Native American women by closing the gap of information sharing between tribal, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.
“The increasing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is one that needs to be addressed with urgency and immediate action; their lives are no less valuable than any one of us and deserve to be protected. Improving data collection and fostering better cooperation between law enforcement agencies and tribes, will help prevent more tragedies from happening,” said Rep. Torres. “As a former first responder, I know how important it is to empower people in the front lines who are doing their best to keep our communities safe. It’s time we give local agencies and tribes the tools necessary to bring justice to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls nationwide.”
Native American women face a murder rate ten times higher than the national average, with eighty-four percent experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime. While 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how many Native women go missing each year because the databases that hold statistics of these cases are extremely outdated and in need of reform. Savanna’s Act aims to remove information sharing barriers in order to streamline coordination between tribes and federal agencies to better protect Native women and girls at risk.
Rep. Cole said, “I am proud to join my colleagues Representatives Torres and Senator Heitkamp to introduce Savanna’s Act, which will help cut through the red tape and improve communications between tribal, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Native American women in tribal communities across the nation unfortunately face higher rates of murder and violence, and this legislation will help alleviate the delays and barriers to information when addressing this very pressing issue. We must do all that we can to protect Native women and provide our agencies with the tools they need to do so.”
The legislation is an important and necessary step toward addressing the exploitation of Native women and girls. The National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, and United and South Eastern Tribes support the bill.
Senator Heitkamp expressed her support for the companion legislation, “The crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women is little known outside of Indian Country – but we’re fighting to increase awareness and implement solutions to bring victims justice and keep women and girls safe. I’m encouraged that Savanna’s Act has already received strong bipartisan support and a hearing in the U.S. Senate, and today Representatives Norma Torres and Tom Cole are taking important action by introducing this legislation in the House. We’ll keep fighting on a bipartisan basis to make the voices and needs of our Native communities heard, and to keep our women and girls safe.”
Congresswoman Norma Torres currently serves as Ranking Member on the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee on the House Committee on Natural Resources, the subcommittee which oversees all matters regarding Native Americans. Congressman Tom Cole currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus. Companion legislation to Savanna’s Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) where it is currently before the Committee on Indian Affairs.