Please note this story contains reference to someone who has died.
The United States Government has passed Indigenous Bill, Savanna’s Act, in a move to increase the safety of Indigenous women across the nation.
Aimed at addressing violence against Indigenous women, Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a young woman who was found dead at 22-years-old. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, with her foetus cut from her womb before she was killed.
Over 500 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been found dead in the US, with the circumstances around their disappearances or deaths remaining largely unknown.
According to a 2016 US Department of Justice report, Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men, it was estimated 84 per cent of Indigenous women experience violence.
Savanna’s Act was penned by former US Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2017, however, it was blocked from a House vote and remained unimplemented. In 2019, Senator Lisa Murkowsi, the representative for Alaska, took the baton.
Now the Bill has passed, it will be approved by President Donald Trump and signed into law.
In a statement, Senator Murkowski noted the tireless advocacy of tribal groups and family members.
“The issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women has been a crisis for such a painfully long time,” she said.
“Many tribal advocates and family members of those affected worked so tirelessly on this issue, and I am proud to have worked alongside them to elevate this crisis at the local, state, and national level.
“The bipartisan action we have seen, from tribal communities to the administration, has been significant. With the Senate’s passage of Savanna’s Act now in both Congressional chambers, we are not just making headway, we are taking the necessary steps to make real, lasting change.”
“Today is a big victory in our fight to provide justice for victims, healing for their families, and protection for women and children across the nation.”
Senator John Hoeven, Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued a statement in response to the passing of Savanna’s Act.
“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans,” said Senator Hoeven.
“We appreciate our House colleagues for passing the Bill today and sending it on to the President to become law.
“At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice.”
Once signed in, Savanna’s Act will see the US Justice Department develop procedures around responses to missing or murdered Indigenous women. It will also see the Department report statistics on cases, employ law enforcement training and work alongside tribal organisations.
By Rachael Knowles