U.S. Senator Jon Tester has introduced legislation to commission a federal study on the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis.
The legislation follows a December 2018 Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing where Kimberly Loring HeavyRunner, the sister of Ashley Loring HeavyRunner who has been missing from the Blackfeet Reservation since June 2017, spoke about her experiences following her sister’s disappearance.
“The responses I got at the hearing made it clear that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to understanding this problem and figuring out how to fix it,” Tester stated. “From federal to state to tribal law enforcement agencies, we need to make sure folks are working together to find and implement meaningful solutions.”
The bill, “Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act,” would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full review of how federal agencies respond to reports of missing and murdered Native Americans and recommend solutions based on their findings.
In addition to improving law enforcement cooperation and information sharing, the bill also directs the GAO to make recommendations on how to address economic, social, and other underlying factors that are fueling this crisis, according to a press release.
There are two other pieces of legislation that Tester is sponsoring including Savanna’s Act with Senator Steve Daines, which aims to improve information sharing between tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and increasing data collection on missing persons throughout Indian Country.
The second piece, the SURVIVE Act, would give tribes access to a critical source of funding they can use to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence get back on their feet.