Office of Representative Ruth Buffalo (D-ND-27)
Representative Ruth Buffalo (D-ND) testified on March 14, 2019, before the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States on the subject of the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Representative Buffalo is a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and represents District 27 in south Fargo.
Representative Buffalo highlighted legislation she has sponsored in the 66th Legislative Assembly that would improve law enforcement training (HB 1311), address the growing problem of human trafficking in the state (HB 1507), and create a missing persons database (HB 1313) as well as studying challenges in data reporting for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People and human trafficking cases (HCR 3056). She also lent support for the federal Savanna’s Act, named after Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind of the Spirit Lake Nation (HCR 3041).
“The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People has left many of our communities throughout North Dakota and country on high alert,” said Representative Buffalo. “From the horrendous crime committed in the murder of Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind, a young Indigenous mother who was eight months pregnant, to our Indigenous men who go missing.”
Representative Buffalo testified that the lack of data on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People is one of the reasons she chose to speak before the subcommittee. “Without data, there is no clear evidence that a problem even exists,” Representative Buffalo said. “It is essential for accurate data reporting and for swift action to be taken by authorities when people go missing.” She also said certain stereotypes and biases regarding Indigenous people could be affecting law enforcement responses, making the need for additional law enforcement training essential.
Representative Buffalo gave the committee several recommendations for solutions on this problem.
- Focus on prevention and justice
- Improve law enforcement response times
- Provide for data collection that will help secure additional resources for law enforcement agencies
- Include language regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous People within the missions of federal agencies, including the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
- Look at the pleadings in criminal cases in the prevention of further Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cases
- Ensure all local city, county, state and tribal agencies are working together
“This is a national crisis both within and without Indian Country. I believe through the passage of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women legislation and comprehensive laws we are sending a strong message to predators which will further deter tragic outcomes, and move towards keeping our people safer. There cannot be – there must not be – any more stolen sisters.”