Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today released statements regarding the announcement by the Departments of Interior (DOI) and Justice (DOJ) that the agencies are taking the next steps in the senators’ bipartisan Not Invisible Act to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. DOI and DOJ are now consulting with tribal leaders and soliciting nominations for a joint commission, as the law requires.
“The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women deserves a serious response from our government, and I’m eager to see this commission get to work to protect Natives in Nevada and across the country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “These nominations and conversations are critical to implementing our bipartisan legislation. I’ll continue to press for urgent action to get the commission up and running and making change.”
“I’m pleased to see the progress of the Not Invisible Act, as it’s being meaningfully implemented by the Department of the Interior and Department of Justice,” said Senator Murkowski. “Recognizing that there is important work ahead to bring justice to Tribal communities is critical in ending the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous people. I thank the efforts of these agencies, including their solicitation of nominations for a Joint Commission on reducing violent crimes against American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as ensuring consultation with Tribal leaders as they move forward on this important initiative. It’s been an honor to work alongside Senator Cortez Masto to help this legislation become reality.”
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 unanimous, bipartisan votes 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 continue to work to assemble, 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, requires 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.