Cantwell Joins Seattle Indian Health Board for Release of Report on Missing, Murdered Native Women and Girls

New report shows 506 cases of missing or murdered Native American women nationwide; Seattle leads country in total number of murdered Native women, Tacoma highest number of missing individuals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a former chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined the Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) to release its first report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 71 urban areas throughout the United States.

The report found 506 cases nationwide, with Seattle having the highest total number of missing and murdered individuals, as well as the highest total number of murdered individuals. Tacoma was found to have the highest total number of missing individuals.

“This report is the evidence that we need... the problem is more than real – it’s horrifying. And we need action,” Senator Cantwell said. “We can no longer sweep these statistics under the rug.”

In her remarks, Senator Cantwell also highlighted the importance of reporting and prosecuting these cases.

“More than half of the American Indian and Native Alaskan women and girls live in urban, non-Tribal areas, and they face a myriad of barriers that can impede the prosecution of perpetrators,” Cantwell continued.

Shortly after the release of the SIHB report, Cantwell and her colleagues on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee voted to advance Savanna’s Act to address some of the issues raised.

In an effort to better respond to reports of disappearances or murders of Native women and girls, the legislation would increase coordination efforts across federal departments, Tribes, and states. It would also standardize protocols for responding to reports of missing or murdered Native Americans, improve Tribal access to certain federal crime databases, and require annual reports to Congress on ways to improve the collection of data on these crimes.

“We need to do more. Every community needs these tools,” Cantwell said. “We need to pass this legislation before the end of this calendar year and get it on the president’s desk.”

The legislation is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who disappeared on August 19, 2017, while eight months pregnant. Eight days later, her body was found in the Red River north of Fargo, North Dakota. Police determined her death to be caused by “homicidal violence.”

Native American women and girls have faced devastating levels of violence in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly half of all Native American women have been raped, beaten, or stalked by an intimate partner; one in three will be raped in their lifetime; and on some reservations, women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average.

Senator Cantwell has long fought to address the epidemic of violence against Native women. In 2013, as Congress considered the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, she spoke out about the importance of addressing violence against Native women and successfully fought to prevent efforts to remove language from the bill aimed at enhancing domestic violence protections for women in Tribal communities.

After today’s passage through committee, Savanna’s Act now moves on to the full Senate for consideration.