Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Native leaders praise bills addressing missing, murdered Indigenous women

A pair of bills championed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski that seeks to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has become law. 

Savannah’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, both cosponsored in the Senate by Murkowski, were signed by President Trump on Saturday. 

The first bill will increase coordination among the different levels of law enforcement, increase data collection and information sharing, and includes tribal government access to law enforcement databases in cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

The second designates an official who will coordinate efforts across these agencies and creates a commission of tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice on how best to address the epidemic. 

Alaska has the worst rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the country. Alaska Native women are 10 times more likely to experience domestic violence compared with other women in the United States. Similarly grim statistics show that while Alaska Natives are only about 20% of the state’s population, Alaska Native women make up 54% of the state’s sexual assault victims. 

For Chief Victor Joseph, chairman of the Fairbanks-based tribal health consortium Tanana Chiefs Conference, these bills are an important next step in the fight against the crisis.

“These laws commemorate decades of advocacy to address the victimization of Native women in our country. Improving data collection and collaboration is a significant step forward to ensure victims receive justice,” Joseph said. “I know personally several Alaskan tribes that are seeking justice for their murdered members, and this provides new hope as our communities grapple with the impacts of violence.”

Alaska Federation of Natives Director Julie Kitka shared similar encouragement. 

“The Alaska Federation of Natives commends U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto for their bipartisan leadership in the passage of Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, legislation that addresses the epidemic-level crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Alaska Native and American Indian women. This is a huge victory for Native families seeking justice,” Kitka said.

These are bills Murkowski and other senators have been working on since 2018. 

“I’m proud that we have elevated this issue from raising awareness, to action — having created enduring policy to make real, lasting change. And the way to make that necessary change is through partnerships, coordination, and pooling resources — by working to solve this problem, together. Today we are reminding these families, they matter and their loved ones who are lost matter,” Murkowski said after the signing. “Advancing these bills has been a top priority of mine, and I applaud my Senate colleagues and the administration for their support in recognizing the importance of doing everything in our power to turn the tide of women and girls falling victim to this epidemic.”

By:  Erin McGroarty
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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