U.S. Department of the Interior: National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day
Secretary Haaland plans announcement amid calls for progress on missing and murdered
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Indianz.Com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is hosting a virtual event on May 5 to mark National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.

According to a post on social media, Haaland plans to highlight the Not Invisible Act Commission. The new entity was authorized by Congress through the Not Invisible Act to help address the crisis of missing and murdered people in Indian Country, especially women and girls.

But nine months after seeking members for the commission, the Biden administration is facing increased calls to make progress in implementing the Not Invisible Act, which Haaland co-sponsored when she served in the U.S. Congress.

“The Not Invisible commission, for example, should have begun its work more than a year ago, yet its members have not even been named,” key lawmakers from the the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs said in a letter on Monday.

In the letter, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also expressed concerns about the apparent lack of progress in implementing another law. Savanna’s Act was named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old Spirit Lake Nation citizen whose disappearance and murder in 2017 helped draw attention to the crisis.

“Similarly, under Savanna’s Act, the creation of regionally appropriate response guidelines to cases of missing or murdered Native people should have already be implemented by U.S. Attorneys, yet Tribes on the ground have not received progress updates with any concrete information,” the three lawmakers stated.

The virtual event on Thursday should help answer some questions about the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act. According to the social media post, Haaland plans to discuss ongoing efforts at the Department of the Interior to address cases of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.

An email sent by the department about the event noted that Haaland plans to “make an important announcement in connection with the Biden administration’s efforts on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.

At the event, Haaland will be joined by two tribal leaders: President Fawn Sharp of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairwoman Whitney Gravelle of the Bay Mills Indian Community. Also participating is Lucy Rain Simpson, who serves as executive director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resources (NIWRC).

NIWRC hosted an national briefing on Friday as part of the organization’s efforts to address missing and murdered Indigenous women, or MMIW. The event helped launch the 2022 National Week of Action for MMIW, with implementation of the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act among the top priorities for Native women and their advocates.

“The crisis of MMIW reflects the intersection of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking and other related crimes,” NIWRC Senior Native Affairs Advisor Kerri Colfer said during the briefing.

“In other words, it’s the culmination of the spectrum of violence Indigenous women face every day,” said Colfer, who is Tlingit. “These crimes are the result of colonization and the long history of failed government policies, programs, and laws that create dangerous conditions and leave Indigenous women unprotected.”

Secretary Haaland’s event will be webcast at doi.gov/live. It is scheduled to begin at 2:30pm Eastern on Thursday.

To wrap up 2022 National Week of Action for MMIW on Thursday, NIWRC has organized an #MMIWActionNow Twitter Storm and an #MMIWActionNow Twitter Chat on the social media platform. Details on how to participate can be found on niwrc.org/mmiwnatlweek22.

NIWRC is also hosting a virtual event of its own in the afternoon. A panel on “Uplifting the Voices of MMIW Surviving Families” at 3pm Eastern will feature family members whose loved ones have gone missing and murdered.

May 5 has been recognized as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls since 2017. The day is named in memory of Hanna Harris, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who went missing in Montana, not long after her 21st birthday on May 5, 2013. Two people were eventually sentenced for their roles in her disappearance and murder, representing one of the rare instances in which the perpetrators in an MMIW case were brought to justice.

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