Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) released the following statements after the Departments of Interior (DOI) and Justice (DOJ) announced that they would be enacting a joint commission to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, a key component of Cortez Masto’s bipartisan Not Invisible Act, which was signed into law last year.
“This is a welcome step from the Administration and it will make an enormous difference in our efforts to address the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native women,” said Cortez Masto. “It’s so frustrating that for so many years there was no federal strategy in place to assist women, girls, and families facing unspeakable violence and harm, which is why I worked across the aisle to deliver a bipartisan solution that would help address this crisis. I’m so pleased to see the Administration enact our landmark legislation, and I am confident it will help us deliver justice for the thousands of Native women and girls that have been targeted. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Murkowski and the Administration to protect Native communities in Nevada and across the country.”
“It’s a proud moment to see the actions being taken to implement the Not Invisible Act, and I thank Senator Cortez Masto for her efforts as we have worked together on this issue. Addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has long been a priority of mine. Too many families have faced unspeakable loss as Native women have gone missing, murdered, or trafficked and let down by the complex law enforcement systems in place,” said Senator Murkowski. “I am hopeful that this new Joint Commission will be instrumental in protecting women and girls and will provide direct solutions to this pervasive issue. This is one more step toward healing an open wound which plagues Native communities.”
Cortez Masto and Murkowski have led efforts in the Senate to protect Native communities and to combat the dangerous epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women and girls. Working together, the bipartisan pair of Senators introduced the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act, which passed the Senate on a unanimous, bipartisan vote and were signed into law in October 2020. The Not Invisible Act created a point person in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to improve coordination of violent crime prevention across federal agencies and established the commission that DOI and DOJ are announcing today, comprised of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, and survivors, who will ensure that the Departments work together to protect Native women and to address the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Savanna’s Act, named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, would require federal law enforcement to create standard guidelines on responding to these crimes and increase data collection on them.
Tribal communities across the country are experiencing an epidemic of violence. More than 80% of Native men and women will experience violence in their lifetimes, and 34% of Native women will experience sexual violence or assault. Additionally, Native women and girls are disproportionately likely to become victims of sex trafficking, contributing to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. While there are many federal programs and resources that can be directed to address the problems of violent crime in Indian Country against American Indians and Alaska Natives, there was no plan or strategy to do so until Cortez Masto and Murkowski took on this challenge for communities in Nevada, Alaska, and across the country.