Office of U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres
Today, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) took to the House floor to urge passage of Savanna’s Act, legislation she introduced last year in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year old pregnant member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was brutally murdered and had her unborn child stolen from her. Savanna’s Act would address the disturbing increase in murdered and missing Native American women by closing the gap of information sharing between tribal, local, and federal law enforcement agencies. Companion legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) was unanimously passed by the Senate earlier this month.
“Congress hasn’t paid attention to the lives of Native American women. That’s why I joined Senator Heitkamp in introducing Savanna’s Act,” Torres said. “This is commonsense legislation. It passed the Senate unanimously, but one member of this body has decided to prevent us from passing Savanna’s Act and the rest have capitulated.”
Torres continued, “One member standing in the way of finally doing the right thing for Native women, American women, women who are the victims of crime. Shameful. Shame on this body for allowing this and not taking this last week of the 115th Congress to finally bring about some justice to these cases.”
Native American women face a murder rate ten times higher than the national average, with eighty-four percent experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime. There is still no reliable way of knowing how many Native women go missing each year because the databases that hold statistics of these cases are extremely outdated and in need of reform. Savanna’s Act aims to remove information sharing barriers in order to streamline coordination between tribes and federal agencies to better protect Native women and girls at risk.
The legislation is an important and necessary step toward addressing the exploitation of Native women and girls. The bill is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, and United and South Eastern Tribes.