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Newhouse Leads Members in Call to Action: Congress Must End the MMIW Crisis

October 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, October 16, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) hosted an hour-long Special Order in the House of Representatives to urge congressional action to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW).

Rep. Newhouse was joined by a bipartisan group of Members from across the country who represent Native communities affected by this crisis. He led a discussion about solutions and actions Congress can take to deliver justice to Native American women and their loved ones who face a disproportionately high murder and crime rate across the country.

Earlier this year, Rep. Newhouse and Reps. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) introduced Savanna’s Act, a bill that aims to increase coordination between law enforcement agencies and enhance reporting and record-keeping for MMIW cases. The bill also focuses on improving communication between law enforcement and the families and loved ones of victims.

Rep. Newhouse also joined a bipartisan group to co-introduce the Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act . This bill, led by House Native American Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Tom Cole (R-OK), strengthens tribal communities’ ability to investigate crimes related to MMIW and better enforce public safety. It also provides tribal access to federal databases as well as resources to better recruit and retain qualified officers.

Click here to watch Rep. Newhouse’s opening remarks.

“This crisis is one that affects communities in both highly populated urban areas, as well as rural districts like the one I represent in Central Washington state. I have seen firsthand how these injustices affect local communities, and I have vowed to exercise my position in Congress to help deliver justice for these women,” said Rep. Newhouse (R-WA).

In June, Rep. Newhouse sent invitations to the House Judiciary and Natural Resources Committees to host a field hearing on the Yakama Nation reservation to hear directly from the tribes, law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, and loved ones who deal with this crisis every day. The request has been echoed by local tribes, advocacy groups, and women’s groups in additional letters to the Committees. He has not received a response to his invitation from either Committee. 

Rep. Newhouse said, “I have lived just outside the Yakama Nation reservation my entire life, but hearing the heartfelt testimonies of the families and loved ones of missing Native women from just down the road was an eye-opening and deeply heart-wrenching experience. And I believe it is one that all Members of Congress need to have.”

He also pointed to several relevant MMIW statistics and state-led efforts by Washington State Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, who has worked to improve reporting requirements for law enforcement in cases of MMIW. Washington state has over 100 reported open MMIW cases, but the true number of missing or murdered women is unknown due to complicated law enforcement jurisdictions and lack of coordination.

Click here to watch Rep. Newhouse’s closing remarks.

Rep. Newhouse closed the hour by listing just a sample of the names of women with open cases from on or near the Yakama Nation reservation and repeating the call for Congress to act. He said, “It is easy to focus on these heartbreaking statistics, but these women are more than just numbers. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, neighbors, and friends.”

See below for remarks and highlights from the participating members:

“This tragic epidemic must end. These are our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters. Their cases often do not receive the attention they deserve. Their families deserve justice,” said Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

Rep. Gianforte, a cosponsor of both Savanna’s Act and the BADGES for Native Communities Act, brought specific attention to one of the victims from Montana, Kaysera Stops Pretty Places. Her death still remains a mystery. Click here to watch Rep. Gianforte’s remarks.

“Because of the efforts of Native American women across the country, we are close to passing Savanna’s Act into law. But we cannot continue waiting. More importantly, Native American women cannot afford it,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA).

Reps. Torres and Newhouse introduced Savanna’s Act on May 14, 2019. They worked together to make bipartisan improvements to the original legislation introduced in the 115th Congress. She is also an original cosponsor of the BADGES for Native Communities Act. Click here to watch Rep. Torres’ remarks.

“This is absolutely the purview of Congress. This bill has strong bipartisan and bicameral support, and there’s really no excuse to not get Savanna’s Act passed,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND).

Rep. Armstrong represents North Dakota, where Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe and the namesake of Savanna’s Act, was tragically murdered. Click here to watch Rep. Armstrong’s remarks.

“New Mexico’s past, present, and future is tied to the vibrancy of its Native American sovereign governments. One of the most serious threats facing these communities is the crisis of murdered and missing women,” said Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small (D-NM).

Rep. Torres-Small is a cosponsor of Savanna’s Act and has been a strong voice for the Native communities of New Mexico. Click here to watch Rep. Torres Small’s remarks.

“We say we would go to the ends of the earth to protect our family, our friends, and our loved ones. That is how our Native American brothers and sisters feel about their lost loved ones as well…When our fellow Americans go missing, we take action,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE).

Rep. Bacon represents Omaha, Nebraska, which has one of the highest rates of open cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States. He has fiercely advocated for the Native communities of Nebraska and is a cosponsor of Savanna’s Act. Click here to watch Rep. Bacon’s remarks.

“In just the last few years, we have had 6,000 Native American women go missing…and just a handful of those cases have been logged with the Department of Justice. In that way, our federal government is not doing enough to combat this problem,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD).

Rep. Johnson, a cosponsor of Savanna’s Act, spoke of his experience speaking with Native American women and families from South Dakota who have been directly impacted by the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. Click here to watch Rep. Johnson’s remarks.