Savanna’s Act passed by Senate, moves onto House for vote

Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, was killed in 2017. (Twitter)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

The act creates efforts to bring national MMIW statistics to tribes, originally introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

The Senate has passed Savanna’s Act and the bill is now on its way to the House of Representatives.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate on Indian Affairs announced the passing of the S. 1942 bill this morning.

“Savanna’s Act will provide Indian tribes with better access to databases that track missing and unidentified persons across the country,” Hoeven said. “This will help bring greater awareness regarding tragic cases of missing and murdered Indians in the United States.”

There are many “if’s” for passing a bill, especially with new Congress coming in.

If there is inaction by the 115th Congress, the bill will be reintroduced in the next session with the 116th Congress. If the bill is passed by the House by a majority vote, it goes onto the President of the United States to sign. Once signed by the President, the bill becomes a law. The president also has the power to veto the bill. Congress can vote again and a majority vote can override the president’s veto.

The Savanna’s Act would require mandatory annual reporting to Congress on known statistics relating to missing and murdered Indians in the United States.

The intention according to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is to improve tribal access to databases that track missing and unidentified persons, provide tribes and their law enforcement with training and technical assistance to implement this law, provide incentives to federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement to include these guidelines into processes that exist, and require the Department of Justice to have conversations with tribes to create protocols when responding to missing and murdered Native peoples.

The bill was initially introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, on October 5th, 2017.

Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, Spirit Lake, from North Dakota. The pregnant 22-year-old was murdered in 2017. Her baby was cut out of her womb and survived.

READ MORE:Jury Acquits man of murder conspiracy in Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind death.

An oversight hearing on the missing and murdered titled “Missing and Murdered: Confronting the Silent Crisis in Indian Country” is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12 on Capitol Hill to further discuss the importance of the issue affecting Indian Country.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter:@jourdanbb.