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Savanna's Act passes Senate, out of House committee


March 13, 2020

Staff and wire report

Montana’s U.S. senators and several grassroots organizations praised the unanimous Senate passage Thursday of legislation to help prevent and reduce murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna Greywind, a pregnant 22-year-old North Dakota woman and member of the Spirit Lake Nation, who was brutally murdered in 2017. Savanna’s Act passed the Senate in 2018, but was blocked in the House. As Section 2 of Savanna’s Act notes, Indigenous women face more violence than any other group. According to the National Institute of Justice, at least 84 percent of Indigenous women have been the target of sexual or other violence in their lifetimes. 

“The Senate took a major step forward yesterday passing these two bipartisan bills to protect the women in our tribal communities,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said. ‘I look forward to the House passing these important Montana priorities so we can get this on the president’s desk for signature. I will continue working to raise awareness and push for better coordination to combat the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis impacting Indian country.”

Daines is running for re-election and faces John Driscoll of Helena and Daniel Larson of Stevensville in the Repuiblican primary.

Montana’s senior Senator also lauded the bill’s passing.

“Congress has to do everything in its power to help Native American women, girls, and families feel safe in their homes and in their communities,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said. “Effective data collection and sharing between service providers, survivors, and Tribal, local, and federal law enforcement will be a critical first step towards addressing the crisis of violence against women in Indian Country. I’m glad to see Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act clear this key hurdle as they move one step closer to the President’s desk.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., was one of the original sponsors of the bill in the U.S. House last year.

Gianforte is running for Montana governor this year, and faces Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell in the Republican primary.

Savanna’s Act makes clear the responsibilities that law enforcement has in responding to missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, as well as increasing communication between federal, state, and tribal officials. It also increases data collection related to these cases by requiring the Department of Justice to maintain a nationwide database for missing and murdered indigenous women.

“Indigenous people have been continuously subjugated for centuries on this continent and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people is not new to our lands,”  said Lisa DeVille, Mandaree, North Dakota Native Vote chair from Mandaree, ND and a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. “My homelands of Fort Berthold have been overrun with oilfield workers and people who choose to intentionally harm our people. The issue of Missing and Murdered is up to ten times higher in our communities than missing populations nationally, and Fort Berthold is not immune to violence and human trafficking. After 500 years, it is time that the US Government upholds their promise of protecting our people. Thank you Senator Hoeven, Senator Cramer, and Representative Armstrong for working to stop the epidemic of violence against Native American women by cosponsoring Savanna's Act.”

“It is unfortunate that a bill of such magnitude had to be reintroduced, it is another dehumanization of Indigenous people,” said Paula Antoine, Dakota Rural Action Board member from Winner, SD and a member of the Lakota Nation. “For years our people, our women have gone missing. Funding limits investigations on reservations. The families of the missing and murdered face years of trauma, the victim no peace. For years I have never seen an Amber Alert for an indigenous person, our lives are not valued. This has to stop, there are too many missing and murdered. We cannot allow one more. Congress must take action. The federal government must allow funding for this bill, recognizing the need for protection of our most vulnerable population. Being human is bipartisan.”

“The act is the first step towards acknowledging a safety net for our Native Women in America,” said Western Native Voice member Alaina Buffalo Spirit. “It's been a long-time coming to address the plight of our Indigenous women.”


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