Murkowski, Cortez Masto Urge DOJ for Timely Implementation of Savanna’s Act

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), pressing the Department to expedite their efforts to finalize implementation of Savanna’s Act. The letter listed specific questions aimed at clarifying the DOJ’s efforts to implement the law. The letter also strongly encourages the DOJ to take into consideration the recently released recommendations from the Not Invisible Act Commission, which were published in November 2023.

“For years, Savanna’s Act has remained one of my top priorities, which is why I’ve worked tirelessly alongside many Native advocates, family members and Congressional colleagues to not only to shepherd this legislation into law, but to ensure that Native voices are a key driver throughout the implementation process. I’m proud of the good, bi-partisan work we’ve accomplished in the fight against missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women and girls, but there is still work to be done,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’ll continue to push to ensure the Department of Justice upholds their responsibility to implement this legislation in a timely manner. Now is not the time to let our foot off of the gas.”

Letter Excerpts:

  • “While we appreciate DOJ’s ongoing efforts to address the increased rates of victimization amongst these communities, DOJ has fallen short in its implementation of Savanna’s Act.”
  • “Without implementation of this law, countless cases of violence against Native men, women, and children are not being effectively responded to by the systems and people that should be protecting them.”
  • “We cannot begin to reduce violence for Native Americans and Alaska Natives if we do not bring together inter-jurisdictional resources and streamline responses to crime. In order for law enforcement, Tribal members, and other stakeholders to best protect the public safety of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, DOJ must fulfill its obligation to fully administer Savanna’s Act.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.

Timeline on Senator Murkowski’s Efforts:

  • August 2022 – Senator Murkowski applauded the announcement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska completed Savanna’s Act guidelines for Alaska.
  • November 2020 – Senators Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) wrote an Op-Ed for Indian Country Today to share their collaborative efforts to help respond to the inordinate violence that Native American women and girls face.
  • October 2020 – Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act were signed into law.
  • August 2020 – Senator Murkowski joined other federal, state, tribal, and local leaders, for the official opening off the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage.
  • July 2020 – The administration announced a number of new Cold Case Task Force Offices for Missing and Murdered Natives would be established in Anchorage and across the nation.
  • May 2020 – Senator Murkowski joined U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) in introducing a resolution to designate May 5 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The resolution acknowledges the lack of data on the number of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and calls upon Americans to commemorate the lives of those missing and murdered and to demonstrate solidarity with the families of victims in light of those tragedies.
  • March 2020 – Senator Murkowski applauded the Senate passage of two of her bills to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women. The bills, Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, are both led by Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto and aim to combat the epidemic by improving the federal government’s response through increased coordination, development of best practices, and creation of a commission on violent crime.
  • February 2020 – Senator Murkowski helped lead a Capitol Hill briefing with Senator Cortez Masto on ways to increase the safety of Native women and address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The briefing also covered other topics, including issues for PL 280 states, the implementation of 2013 special jurisdiction, and various pieces of legislation that Senator Murkowski has introduced to improve safety in rural Alaska.
  • December 2019 – A funding bill with new investments secured by Senator Murkowski to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous women was signed into law by the President.
  • November 2019 – The administration announced an Executive Order to enhance the operation of the criminal justice system and address the legitimate concerns of American Indian and Alaska Native communities regarding missing and murdered women — particularly missing and murdered indigenous women.
  • November 2019 – The Senate passed a funding package which included the Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2020 on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and Commerce, Justice, Science which included funding secured by Senator Murkowski which would, for the first time, address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women. Specifically, $6.5 million is included for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a comprehensive look at the issue across the BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS), which includes funding for cold case work, background checks, equipment needs, training, and a directive for the IHS regarding forensic training. The bill also included language directing coordination and data collection among Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement.
  • November 2019 – Attorney General William Barr launched a national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative places MMIP coordinators in 11 U.S. Attorney’s offices who will develop protocols for a more coordinated law enforcement response to missing cases. The plan also called for the deployment of the FBI’s most advanced response capabilities when needed, improved data collection and analysis, and training to support local response efforts. 
  • June 2019 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Attorney General Barr would declare a law enforcement emergency in rural Alaska under the Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program today. Immediately following his announcement, $6 million was made available to the state of Alaska to support critical law enforcement needs of Alaska Native villages. The Attorney General also authorized additional funding to invest in victim services and village public safety. In total, the $10 million was invested in rural communities across the state.
  • June 2019 – Senator Murkowski and U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) hosted U.S. Attorney General William Barr to Alaska for a visit focusing on law enforcement and public safety issues. During Attorney General Barr’s four-day trip, Senator Murkowski facilitated meetings in both Bethel and Napaskiak to emphasize the public safety challenges faced across Alaska due to the lack of local law enforcement as well as to help shed light on the severity of the issue of missing and murdered Native women and girls.
  • April 2019 – Senator Murkowski called on Attorney General William Barr to work with her on addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and on tribal jurisdictional concerns. Attorney General Barr testified in a Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing examining the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Justice Department. During the hearing, Murkowski raised the issue of protection for Alaska Native Villages in remote areas, and the need to expand tribal jurisdiction. This is the hearing AG Barr first announced he was planning to visit Alaska.
  • April 2019 – Senator Murkowski and Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Not Invisible Act, legislation aimed at addressing the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native people by engaging law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers and improving coordination across federal agencies. Separately, Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto reintroduced Savanna’s Act, a bill to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing Native women and girls by improving the federal government's response to addressing the crisis.
  • November 2018 – The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of which Senator Murkowski is a member, passed the S. 1942, Savanna’s Act, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Following the hearing, Senator Murkowski joined her Senate colleagues Senators Heitkamp (D-ND), Murray (D-WA), Cantwell (D-WA), Tester (D-MT) as well as Co-Authors of the UIHI report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Annita Lucchesi and Abigail Echo-Hawk discuss the findings of a report prepared by the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) which indicated the epidemic of violence against Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls initially believed to be confined to Indian Country, was far more reaching.
  • October 2017 - Senator Murkowski cosponsored Savanna’s Act, which was introduced by former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp. The legislation is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in 2017 in Fargo, North Dakota. The bill passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in December of 2018.