Senator: It is time we prioritize the significant challenges that Native women face

From Senator Tester’s Office 

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Senate to hold a hearing on missing and murdered Native American women.

In a letter to the leadership of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester is demanding the committee bring together law enforcement agencies, tribes, and Native American women for a public hearing in order to gather testimony and work towards a solution to this growing epidemic.

“It is time we prioritize the significant challenges that Native women face and identify the barriers that give way to the staggering statistics we see today,” Tester wrote. “I believe a hearing is a critical step that will not only help raise awareness, but provide a space for much needed dialogue to foster action.”

Native American leaders recently told Tester at a public meeting in Montana that 20 Native American women have gone missing in the state since the beginning of 2018. Of the 20 women, only one has been found.

Native American women and girls in Montana face a murder rate that is 10 times higher than the national average. More than 80 percent of Native American women have experienced violence and almost half have experienced it within the past year according to the National Institute of Justice.

Tester underscored to his colleagues that urgent action is needed to protect Native American women and increase safety in Indian Country.

“We owe it to the thousands of women and their families to work together and find solutions that prevent these horrible acts from happening,” Tester added.

Tester has been a leading voice in the Senate to combat the missing and murdered Native American epidemic and he helped pass a Senate Resolution designating May 5, 2018 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. 

Tester also secured a historic $133 million earlier this year from the Crime Victims Fund specifically for tribes to assist survivors of violent crimes and he is sponsoring legislation to establish a long-term funding stream not previously accessible by tribes to support domestic violence shelters, legal assistance, and abuse prevention in Indian Country.

Tester is sponsoring the bipartisan Savanna’s Act to improve information sharing between tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, increase data collection on missing Native American women, and improve response protocols.

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