Despite a wave of awareness of the alarming epidemic of violence against Native American women, federal law enforcement has been slow to respond to the crisis.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell this week called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Home Secretary Deb Haaland to implement changes designed to help federal, tribal and local law enforcement agencies better respond to reports of missing or murdered Indigenous women. They should hurry to do it.
In October 2020, federal lawmakers passed the Non-Invisible Law and Savannah Law, named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old pregnant woman from the Spirit Lake tribe in North Dakota who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 2017.
But officials from the federal justice and interior ministries have failed to enforce many of the provisions of these laws, according to the report. United States Government Accountability Office. This includes the appointment of a Joint Commission on Reducing Violence Against Indians to identify best practices to address murder, trafficking, disappearance and other violent crimes against Native Americans and Alaska Natives. . It also means increasing cooperation between jurisdictions in cases of missing or murdered Indians and violent crimes on Indian lands.
Both laws were enacted in October 2020 after years of advocacy by women, tribes and indigenous organizations. Any further delay is unacceptable. Native American and Native Alaskan women experience higher rates of violence than most other women in the United States, GAO reports. The true extent of the problem is unknown, due to jurisdictional challenges and the lack of comprehensive data.
Journalists, community groups and advocates like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington have tried to fill in the gaps. The missing, a partnership between the Yakima Herald-Republic, El Sol de Yakima, and Radio KDNA with support from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation and Microsoft, has documented dozens of cases – most of them unresolved – of missing and murdered Indigenous women in and near the Yakama reserve. The list goes on and on.
But as important as these outreach efforts are, it will take a strong and coordinated law enforcement response to solve the crimes, bring justice to the victims and end this scourge.