- Outgoing Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia has refused to advance a bill by Senator Heidi Heitkamp that would establish appropriate protocols to address the kidnappings and murders of Native American women.
- Heitkamp, who is also leaving Capitol Hill soon, had hoped this bill would be her parting gift as a senator.
- The legislation is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old pregnant woman who was murdered in 2017 by a woman who wanted to steal her baby.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota reportedly wanted to pass one final law before leaving the Senate, a law that would protect Native American women.
But her bill, the Savanna Act, is currently stalled in the House.
The Savanna Act sailed unanimously through the Senate last week but hit a roadblock when it came across the House Judiciary Committee, led by Virginia Representative Bob Goodlatte. According to NBC News, Goodlatte is refusing to usher the legislation through his committee. A House leadership aide said the Judiciary Committee is “looking at the language of the bill.”
There are only a few days left in this session, and with Heitkamp retiring at the end of it, the bill’s prospects don’t look great.
“He should trust 100 senators who said this was a problem that needed to be addressed,” Heitkamp told NBC. “Right now, one congressman is holding this up, and one congressman who is not even going to be here next year.”
The act would set law enforcement and justice protocols to address missing and murdered Native Americans.
According to the National Institute of Justice, 84.3% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, while 81.6% of American Indian and Alaska Native men do so, too. The bill’s text highlights how investigations into cases of missing and murdered Native women are made difficult for tribal law enforcement agencies due to a lack of resources – including necessary training and equipment, lack of interagency cooperation, and lack of appropriate laws.
The bill is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old pregnant woman who was murdered in 2017 by a woman who tried to kidnap her baby.
In a release following the bill’s passage through the Senate, Heitkamp said she “wanted to honour the memory of Savanna and spark a nationwide call to action against the growing crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.”
“For far too long, this crisis in our Native American communities has been unnoticed, ignored, and unreported,” she said.
Heitkamp introduced the bill in October 2017.