President Donald Trump has signed into law the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act, two measures that address the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women.
“Native American communities are facing a crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in particular women and children,” the White House said in a statement, adding, “President Trump took decisive action to combat this tragedy.”
Savanna’s Act, named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a pregnant 22-year-old tribe member from North Dakota who was killed three years ago, will establish law enforcement protocols relating to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. Specifically, the bill directs the Justice Department to set up national law-enforcement guidelines between the federal government and Native American tribes with the aim of helping track, solve, and prevent crimes against Native Americans.
The Not Invisible Act directs the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice to establish a joint task force on violent crime within and against Native American communities.
Various reports indicate that Native American women face a higher risk of violence, with the Justice Department saying that nearly half of all Native American women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking, and they’re 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans.
Trump wrote in a tweet on Oct. 10: “I was proud to sign Savanna’s Act & the Not Invisible Act. We have also provided $295 Million to support public safety & crime victims. Forgotten NO MORE!”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, in a statement, called the signing of the two bills “a historic day for all tribes across the country” and thanked lawmakers, tribal leaders, and grassroots advocates “who fought long and hard to push these important measures over the finish line to help bring an end to the ongoing losses of life, trauma, and devastation caused by the missing person crisis across our country.”
Myron Lizer, Navajo Nation vice president, said: “We certainly thank the members of the House and Senate and President Trump for supporting these new laws that will help many tribes and families in Indian Country. We have heard many stories and firsthand accounts of our people who have gone missing and/or have been murdered, and many families continue to suffer from the resulting trauma and heartache. I am hopeful that these new provisions will lead to justice, closure, and healing for many of our people.”
Savanna’s Act was introduced by former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and then reintroduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) when Heitkamp lost a reelection battle and after the bill stalled in Congress.
“Today we’ve reached a huge milestone in our efforts to provide justice for victims, healing for their families, and protection for women, children, and families across the nation,” Murkowski said in an Oct. 10 statement.
“I’m proud that we have elevated this issue from raising awareness, to action—having created enduring policy to make real, lasting change,” she wrote. “Today, we are reminding these families, they matter and their loved ones who are lost matter.”
Navajo Nation representatives said in a statement that, due to lack of adequate data systems and coordination with federal law-enforcement agencies, it’s unknown how many Native American women go missing every year.
The Urban Indian Health Institute released a report in 2018 that found that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, only 116 of whom were registered in the Department of Justice database.