The legislation is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old member of the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota murdered in 2017. The Committee reported, “While Savanna’s tragic death became widespread news, many other Native Americans go missing or are murdered each year.” However, DOJ and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) told the Committee that many of those cases go unreported or unresolved.
Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed Savanna’s Act, legislation he cosponsored that requires reporting on missing and murdered Native Americans. The bill, which is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind from North Dakota who was tragically murdered in 2017, also directs the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to consult with Indian Tribes while developing national law enforcement guidelines. #MMIW
The bill was introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp last Congress and was reintroduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski in the current Congress. Hoeven advanced the legislation through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last November and helped secure its passage in the Senate earlier this year. Savanna’s Act will now go to the president to be signed into law.
“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate our House colleagues for passing the bill today and sending it on to the president to become law. At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice.”
Savanna’s Act comes as part of Senator Hoeven’s efforts to improve law enforcement in tribal communities. In addition, the senator is working to advance:
- S. 210, the Tribal Law and Order Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2019, which would reauthorize and strengthen several key programs to improve tribal justice and public safety for Indian communities.
- S. 211, the SURVIVE Act, which would expand critical victims services by requiring a 5 percent allocation from the Crime Victims Fund be allocated directly to Indian Tribes.
- As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured a key provision of his SURVIVE Act in the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bill by securing more than $150 million to assist victims of crime on the reservations. He has done this since FY2018.
- Specialized Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) training courses toaddress tribal law enforcement needs in the Great Plains region.
- Hoeven recently secured $2.5 million for new BIA law enforcement specialized trainings at Camp Grafton. These courses will also include training on investigating cases involving missing or murdered Indians. The senator included this funding in FY2020 appropriations legislation and worked with the Interior Department and state officials, including Governor Burgum and Adjutant General Dohrmann, to host the trainings in North Dakota.
In addition to Hoeven and Murkowski, Savanna’s Act was introduced by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Eighteen more senators were added as co-sponsors since introduction.
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