By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who lived in Fargo, N.D., died at the age of 22 after a woman cut a baby from her womb in a terrible attack in August 2017. Legislation (S.227), named Savanna’s Act in her honor, that puts in measures for law enforcement officials to better address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people, has been passed by Congress and is now awaiting signature by President Trump.
The woman responsible for LaFontaine-Greywind’s brutal murder, Brooke Crews, was caught, convicted of conspiring to murder, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in February 2018. Not quite a year later, the ball really got rolling on Savanna’s Act.
Savanna’s Act was introduced in January 2019 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). In a statement following passage in the House on Monday, Sept. 21, she noted, “The issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women has been a crisis for such a painfully long time. 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.”
S.227 passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on March 11, 2020. It passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in December 2019.
“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,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement following passage in the House. “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.”
According to information from Congress.gov, “This bill directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address missing or murdered Native Americans. The bill requires DOJ to
- provide training to law enforcement agencies on how to record tribal enrollment for victims in federal databases;
- develop and implement a strategy to educate the public on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System;
- conduct specific outreach to tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Native American organizations regarding the ability to publicly enter information through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or other non-law enforcement sensitive portal;
- develop guidelines for response to cases of missing or murdered Native Americans;
- provide training and technical assistance to tribes and law enforcement agencies for implementation of the developed guidelines; and
- report statistics on missing or murdered Native Americans.
According to data from the CDC, in 2018 homicide was the third leading cause of death among American Indian/Alaska Native males ages 1-44 and the sixth leading cause of death among AIAN females in the same age bracket. According to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, 84.3 percent , roughly four out of five, American Indian women have “experienced violence” in their lifetime including: sexual violence (56.1 percent), physical violence by an ‘intimate partner’ (55.5 percent), stalking (48.8 percent), and psychological aggression by an ‘intimate partner’ (66 percent).