Violence Against Native Women Takes Center Stage at Today’s Natural Resources Hearing

Washington, D.C. – This morning’s Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States hearing to examine the silent crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) featured four Native American women as expert witnesses who testified that Congress and federal agencies have not honored their trust responsibilities to Native communities, and that stopping the epidemic of violence against Native women will take time and resources that are not currently being offered.

The video archive of the hearing is available at http://bit.ly/2HqPtex.

“It’s clear that Native American communities aren’t receiving the support, attention, and resources they need to address the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “It is shameful that Congress has gone so long without confronting this issue, and I am glad that we started to remedy that today. We need to work in partnership with the communities that have been struck by these tragedies in order to find real-world, tangible solutions to this crisis and end this cycle of violence.”

“The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women has been my top priority since long before being sworn into Congress, and I'm appreciative that I am here today to hear your testimony to help find solutions to this long overdue issue in Indian country,” Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) said today.

American Indian and Alaska Native women on tribal land have murder rates 10 times the national average. Sadly, cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women are often ignored due to law enforcement apathy, criminal jurisdictional issues, and a lack of a comprehensive missing person data-collection system.

The hearing came a day after Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Ohio) offered an amendment in a Judiciary Committee markup that would have stripped jurisdictional protections for Native women from a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Sensenbrenner’s effort was voted down largely along party lines. 

Haaland raised concerns at today’s hearing that nine Republicans voted for Sensenbrenner’s move: “For any congressional leader to attempt to take away protections for not only women but indigenous women, at a time when we are just beginning to understand how deep-rooted and serious of an issue the severe lack of protections are for native women, is an abomination.”

Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) raised similar concerns. He asked Mary Kathryn Nagle, legal counsel at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, to explain how Sensenbrenner’s proposal would affect Native American women’s safety. You can watch the entire exchange at http://bit.ly/2XYPcp6.

Democratic members of the Committee released a video shortly before the hearing began on why they’re committed to finding solutions and ending the silence around violence against Native women. Unlike the Judiciary Committee, members of the Subcommittee agree on a bipartisan basis that the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women crisis cannot be solved with a single hearing, and they intend to work together to produce federal solutions. 

Media Highlights

Chair Grijalva video: https://youtu.be/ub4w7IN6S6s

Subcommittee Chair Gallego opening statement video: https://youtu.be/Dr9jIvenlVo

Vice Chair Haaland video: https://youtu.be/NjjrNOgYVsg

Rep. Cartwright (D-Calif.) video: https://youtu.be/M6LxMeidUa0

Flickr album with photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHskSXNwJq

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