In a step towards justice, US Senate passes bill with funds for missing and murdered indigenous women

Lack of sufficient data and jurisdictional issues has been a huge obstacle for finding justice for Indigenous women that are victims of violence.

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Image credit: Lorie Shaull

The U.S. Senate has taken a step in providing justice for the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls by passing a spending package that procures $.65 million to tackle the epidemic.

A small line item in a spending package passed by the Senate last week will allow for money to fund the investigation of many cold cases and “just really put some energy behind this issue,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The bill also calls for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and develop guidelines for data collection. Lack of sufficient data and jurisdictional issues has been a huge obstacle for finding justice for Indigenous women that are victims of violence.

The overall spending bill, which is a $332 billion Senate bill, may have passed in the Senate but it must be reconciled in the House and pass both chambers by November 21 or risk a government shutdown.

Although several states have worked hard on this issue, putting together missing and murdered Indigenous women task forces, the federal government has a long way to go to even put a dent in the issue.

Statistics form the Department of Justice shows that on Native American reservations women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average. More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence, according to the Indian Law Resource Center.

The statistics we do have available to us are incomplete though, due to lack of diligent and adequate federal response as well as jurisdictional disputes. Although there have been over 5,700 reported cases of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls since 2016, only 116 have been logged in the Department of Justice database.

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