The United States may have elected the first Native American women to Congress in the 2018 midterm elections, but indigenous people continue to face systemic discrimination and violence. But now, a group of senators is taking action to help protect Native women. According to HuffPost, on April 3rd, the Senate introduced the Not Invisible Act, a bill that aims to curb violence against Native American women.
A report from the Urban Indian Health Institute notes that in 2016 alone, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls—though only 116 of those cases were logged in the U.S. Department of Justice’s database. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control found that murder is the third leading cause of death for Native American women and girls. This is about 10 times higher than the national average.
HuffPost notes that the Not Invisible Act seeks to establish an advisory committee of leaders at the local, federal, and tribal levels, who would give recommendations to the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior about how to address the epidemic of Native American women being trafficked and murdered. The bill was sponsored Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jon Tester, and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. Cortez Masto told HuffPost that Native women are often victims of sex trafficking, which could be partially why they are vanishing at such high rates.
She added that the Not Invisible Act would help collect data about these disappearances, as well as train law enforcement to recognize and prevent human trafficking.
As Pacific Standard notes, Senator Heidi Heitkamp introduced a similar bill, called Savanna’s Act, in October 2017. However, one former Virginia Representative sidelined the bill in the House of Representatives, preventing it from passing. According to HuffPost, Murkowski ended up introducing an identical version of the bill in January.
We’re glad to see these three senators fighting for this cause, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that either the new Savanna Act or the Not Invisible Act makes it through Congress. As always, be sure to contact your elected officials and let them know if you feel strongly about this bill.