Tune in at 9am Eastern on Thursday, March 14, 2019, for the hearing "Unmasking the Hidden Crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW): Exploring Solutions to End the Cycle of Violence."

Native women leaders lined up for hearing on missing and murdered sisters

By Acee Agoyo

Note: The hearing has been moved to 9am Eastern.

A slate of Native women leaders will testify about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The witnesses include Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who won a prestigious "genius grant" for her work to prevent violence against Native women. Also on the list is North Dakota State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation who introduced legislation to address missing and murdered people in her state.

Another expert appearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is Mary Kathryn Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation who has advocated for Native women at the U.S. Supreme Court. Also testifying is Tami Jerue, a citizen of the Anvik Tribe whose work at the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center has helped spur action on missing and murdered indigenous women.

"It's not a secret — we all know people," Jerue said at a Capitol Hill briefing more than two years ago, as she and other advocates pushed for action on the issue.

Runners from the Winnebago Tribe reach their destination, the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, on January 29, 2018, after a two-day run from the reservation in the northeast part of the state. They ran to raise awareness about the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Despite those efforts, Congress last year failed to pass legislation in honor of Savanna Marie Greywind, a 22-year-old woman from the Spirit Lake Nation who was found murdered after she went missing in North Dakota in 2017. The bill cleared the Senate only to be be held up by a Republican in the House who had already planned to leave office.

The bill, known as Savanna's Act, has since been reintroduced as S.227. The bill, along with the upcoming hearing, represent renewed efforts to understand why Native women go missing and are murdered at alarming rates.

"Native women have continued to endure generations of systematic violence," Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna who is one of the first two Native women in Congress told leaders of the United South and Eastern Tribes as they met in Washington last week.

The hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States takes place at 9am Eastern on Thursday in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. It will be webcast at youtu.be/GwIqmsCq-fU

Haaland serves on the subcommittee, which was established in the 116th Congress to address issues facing American Indians, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiians and residents of the U.S. territories. It's part of the larger House Committee on Natural Resources.

The hearing is the subcommittee's second since January.

Biographical information about the Democratic witnesses follows:
Sarah Deer, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
International & Interdisciplinary Studies - Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, School of Public Affairs & Administration
Professor, University of Kansas
Sarah Deer is a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is an author, lawyer, and professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies and Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. She advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Native American communities. She has been credited for her "instrumental role" in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, as well as for testimony which is credited with the 2010 passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act. Deer coauthored, with Bonnie Claremont, Amnesty International's 2007 report Maze of Injustice, documenting sexual assault against Native American women. Deer is a MacArthur Fellow and an inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Ruth Buffalo Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
Representative, North Dakota House of Representatives
Ruth Buffalo, Mia Eh’Desh or Woman Appears, is a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, and is originally from Mandaree, North Dakota, located on the Fort Berthold reservation. Representative Buffalo is the first Native American Democratic women elected to the North Dakota Legislature, where she is a member of the ND House of Representatives, serving the 27th district. Rep. Buffalo holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (Si Tanka University), a Master’s degree in public health from North Dakota State University (NDSU), and Master’s degrees in management and in Business Administration from University of Mary. In her capacity as a North Dakota Representative, she introduced two bills requiring law enforcement training and data collection related to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Mary Kathryn Nagle, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Legal Counsel, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC)
Mary Kathryn Nagle is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is partner at Pipestem Law, P.C. where she specializes in federal Indian law and appellate litigation. Nagle co-authored and filed an amicus brief in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on behalf of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and more than one hundred organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. As counsel to the NIWRC, Nagle has drafted and filed numerous briefs in the United States Supreme Court articulating the connection between preserving tribal sovereignty and ensuring safety for Native women and children. Nagle also has extensive experience with numerous laws that protect the rights of American Indians, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Nagle works out of Pipestem Law’s Washington, D.C. office.

Tami Jerue, Anvik Tribe
Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center
Tami Jerue is a DEG‘XIT’AG Athabascan mother of 4 children and 5 grandchildren. She is the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center and has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and master's work in Community Psychology. Her work has been focused in Indian Child Protection, Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault (DV/SA), Counseling/Advocacy, Mental Health Counseling, Addictions and many other areas. A majority of her work impacted and taken place in the remote village Anvik for the past 24 years.

House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States Notice
Subcommittee Hearing: Unmasking the Hidden Crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW): Exploring Solutions to End the Cycle of Violence (March 14, 2019)

'Shameful': Inaction on #MMIW in Congress
Watch: Rep. Norma Torres (D-California) on Savanna's Act #MMIW MMIWG

A bill to address missing and murdered Native women on the national level failed at the end of the 115th session of Congress.

"Shameful" is how Rep. Norma Torres (D-California), a supporter of a bill known as Savanna's Act, said of the last-minute holdup.

Savanna's Act, named in honor of Savanna Marie Greywind, a 22-year-old woman from the Spirit Lake Nation who was found murdered after she went missing in North Dakota in 2017, passed the Senate but was blocked in the House by a Republican who no longer serves in office.

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