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Savanna's Act

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 21, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 227, Savanna's Act.

Savanna's Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year- old member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, who was murdered in my district in August of 2017. Her disappearance and murder devastated the community and the entire State of North Dakota.

Tragically, Savanna was found dead 8 days after she was reported missing. Thankfully, her baby was found alive, despite being cut from Savanna's womb. Savanna's story brought to light the fact that the data regarding missing and murdered indigenous people, particularly women and girls, is scattered across various government databases, if it even exists at all.

Savanna's heartbreaking story, unfortunately, is not unique. A woman named Olivia Lone Bear disappeared from the Fort Berthold Reservation just a month later, in October of 2017. She was found in a submerged truck in Lake Sakakawea in July of 2018.

These are just two recent examples from my State. There are hundreds more across the Nation.

Savanna's Act will begin to help address this crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people. The bill will establish guidelines and best practices for law enforcement agencies across the country. It will also improve coordination amongst those agencies. Finally, it will enhance reporting, recordkeeping, and communication for law enforcement and families of victims.

This legislation is needed because Native American and Alaska Native women face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average. Shockingly, 84 percent of women in these communities experience some form of violence in their lifetime.

The rural nature of most Native American communities, increased levels of poverty and addiction, and other circumstances pose unique challenges. Because of outdated databases and lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies, there is no reliable way of knowing how many indigenous women actually do go missing each year.

Savanna's Act addresses this disturbing increase in missing and murdered Native American women by creating new guidelines for investigation of these cases and by incentivizing the implementation of these new guidelines.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting S. 227, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Mrs. Torres, Mr. Newhouse, and my colleagues in the Senate, Senator Cramer and Senator Hoeven. This is not the first time in my short time in Congress that I have been on the floor talking about this bill, and I think it is also important to remember people who came before us. Senator Heitkamp was a champion of this in the last Congress. And through this process we have gotten a more targeted and workable solution.

This bill allows U.S. Attorneys in Indian Country more autonomy and authority that is important to law enforcement, and that is particularly important in missing cases. And I think it is also important to recognize that these don't always happen in rural areas or actually on the reservation.

Savanna Greywind, while a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, was in Fargo, North Dakota, the largest city in my State when this incident occurred.

So this is a good bill, it has been a long time coming, and I really appreciate everybody's hard work. With that, I recommend we pass it, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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