Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux frontline organization Kokipansi observed Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness Day at a Keystone XL Pipeline construction site near the Montana border with Canada on May 5, 2020. Photo courtesy Indigenous Environmental Network

Rep. Markwayne Mullin: The silent crisis in our communities

Mullin' It Over Column

We are experiencing an epidemic of violence in our tribal communities: 80 percent of Native men and women experience violence, 34 percent of Native women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, and murder is the third-leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women.

Native women and girls are also disproportionately likely to become victims of sex trafficking. We don’t even have a full picture of the number of women who go missing each year because the databases that hold the statistics of these cases are outdated, underreported and lack coordination between law enforcement agencies.

The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous persons is wreaking havoc on our families and our communities. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, I am committed to doing all I can in Congress to fight back.

Last year, I joined the other Native American Members of Congress, Reps. Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), to introduce H.R. 2438, the Not Invisible Act. The bipartisan bill will establish an advisory committee on violent crime made up of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, and survivors to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice and establish best practices for law enforcement on combatting the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Additionally, this legislation will ensure the unique challenges faced by tribal communities are considered when combatting crime, violence, and human trafficking.

I also introduced legislation to help law enforcement get the tools they need for cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. H.R. 4289, the BADGES for Native Communities Act, will address barriers standing in the way of improving the efficiency of law enforcement agency data sharing and officer recruitment and retention, both of which are imperative to address this crisis.

H.R. 2733, Savanna’s Act, was named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year old pregnant member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was tragically murdered in August 2017. This bill will create new guidelines for responding to cases regarding missing and murdered indigenous women, and incentivizes law enforcement to implement the guidelines.

The Department of Justice also released a national strategy to fight against the epidemic, which will help law enforcement across the country respond to these cases. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative will establish MMIP coordinators in 11 states including Oklahoma, provide Specialized FBI Rapid Deployment Teams, and perform comprehensive data analysis.

These all are important steps in the right direction because we cannot stand by and let this crisis continue. Tuesday, May 5, was the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women, which aimed to shed light on the silent crisis. We all have to work together to protect someone we know and love from becoming one of these alarming statistics.

Markwayne Mullin, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was first elected to serve the people of Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District in November 2012. He is currently serving his fourth term in office. Mullin and his wife Christie have six children. The Mullin family currently resides in Westville, Oklahoma, on the same family farm where Markwayne was raised.

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