Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) issued the following statement applauding the Senate’s passage of the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act. These bipartisan bills, which are led by Cortez Masto and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), work together to combat the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked indigenous women and girls.
Senator Cortez Masto wrote the Not Invisible Act to improve coordination across federal agencies in responding to disappearances and murders of Native Americans, and to create a commission to determine best practices for addressing the crisis. She is an original cosponsor of Savanna’s Act, which gives tribes and law enforcement the tools they need to respond to cases.
“For years, grieving Native families and communities have been asking Congress to address the disappearances of their sisters, mothers, and daughters. The Senate is finally heeding their calls by passing these critical bills to improve our response to cases of missing and murdered Native women,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m pleased by today’s progress, and I’ll continue fighting for policies that support the safety and wellbeing of Native communities in Nevada and across the country.”
Senator Cortez Masto is among Congress’ most visible champions for Native American women and girls. Along with Murkowski, Cortez Masto has worked to raise awareness about the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked indigenous people, holding briefings and roundtables on the topic in Washington, D.C, and Nevada.
Last year, Cortez Masto joined Murkowski in reintroducing Savanna’s Act, which was first introduced by former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp in October 2017. The bill is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in Fargo, North Dakota in 2017. It passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in December of 2018, but was not taken up by the Republican-led House of Representatives. Savanna’s Act aims to improve the country’s response to the crisis of missing and murdered Native women by requiring the creation of standardized, regionally-appropriate guidelines for responding to cases of missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, mandating that the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior consult with tribes on how to improve tribal access to crime information databases, and increasing data collection on these crimes.
In April, Senator Cortez Masto introduced legislation to complement Savanna’s Act. The Not Invisible Act ensures that the federal government is working across agencies to best use its resources to address violence against Native women by creating a point person in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate the federal response to the crisis. It also establishes a commission of tribal and federal stakeholders, along with survivors and family members of victims, to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Senator Cortez Masto has also been an outspoken advocate for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with provisions that give tribal governments additional jurisdictional power to directly address violent crime against tribal members on reservations. She will continue pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on VAWA with those important jurisdiction expansions.