Haaland Leads Historic Bill to Increase Focus on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

May 1, 2019

Commentary: Today, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) introduced a historic bill to increase focus on addressing the silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. The Not Invisible Act of 2019, H.R. 2438, is the first bill in history to be introduced by four enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, Representatives Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation).

Specifically, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 would establish an advisory committee on violent crime comprised of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, and survivors to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice. The bill also seeks to establish best practices for law enforcement on combatting the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and would create a position for an expert within the Bureau of Indian Affairs charged with improving coordination of violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies.

“Every woman deserves to feel safe, but women in Native communities are going missing without a trace. Today, the Congressional members of federally recognized tribes are stepping up for our communities by working to set up an advisory board that is specifically focused on finding solutions to address this silent crisis,” said Congresswoman Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

“The amount of violence that Native Americans and Alaska Natives face in their communities, especially women, frankly would not be tolerated anywhere else in America. The advisory committee established by the Not Invisible Act of 2019 would give federal officers a better glimpse of the tragic epidemic of violence in Indian Country and facilitate the development of strategies tribal leaders and federal law enforcement can implement to more effectively confront this problem,” said Rep.Tom Cole (OK-4), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

“Native women and girls experience violence at higher rates than any other female population in the country – an issue that has devastated our communities and has been neglected for too long,” said Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03). “The Not Invisible Act of 2019 will help to increase coordination and establish best practices for law enforcement on how to combat the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native women. I’m pleased to join my colleagues to shine a light on this issue and help ensure the health and safety of our indigenous communities.” 

“The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women is wreaking havoc on our families and our communities,” Rep. Mullin (OK-2) said. “All parties have to work together to raise awareness and find the most effective ways to fight this epidemic. This is an important step in the right direction to protect women and children because we cannot stand by and let this crisis continue. I thank my colleagues, Deb Haaland, Tom Cole, and Sharice Davids, for joining me in sponsoring this legislation.”

The leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native Women between ages 10 and 24 is homicide, and American Indian and Alaska Native women experience murder rates 10 times the national average. A 2016 National Institute of Justice report states that more than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaskan Native women (84.3 percent) have experienced some form of violence in their lives.

The Not Invisible Act of 2019 is a step toward addressing this crisis. Full text of the bill is available here.

Support for H.R. 2438

The Not Invisible Act of 2019 is supported by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and Urban Indian Health Institute, and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty.

“The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center is honored to support the Not Invisible Act of 2019. As Native women continue to be murdered at rates higher than other populations in the United States, this Act will establish an advisory committee to study how the lack of tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, as well as a lack of resources to tribal law enforcement, contribute to a crisis hundreds of years in the making.” – National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

“The Not Invisible Act is an important step to ensure that the safety of Native women and girls is not ignored,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Director of Urban Indian Health Institute and co-author of a report that highlights the MMIWG data issues in urban cities. “An advisory committee to inform federal agencies on best practices is groundbreaking, and we need to make sure that they have the most accurate data possible to make it successful.”

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the sponsors of this bill, and I would urge tribal leadership throughout Indian Country to pledge support to this important piece of legislation. It is known that the collection of data on violent crimes and trafficking is limited, especially in remote areas such as the Navajo Nation and Alaska Native communities. The passage of the Not Invisible Act of 2019 is paramount, and I would encourage indigenous communities to utilize this tool as they address issues such as sexual violence and missing and murdered indigenous people in their communities. Through a unified voice, we will bring light to these important areas and bring our missing relatives home.” –Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty.