A bill that would help identify missing Native American women unanimously passed the state House today.
House Bill 2951 would require the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to work with tribal law enforcement and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to conduct a study to increase state resources for reporting and identifying missing Native American women throughout Washington state.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gina McCabe, says the recently released film “Wind River” inspired her to dive deeper into the issue.
“The more I looked into it and the more I spoke to tribal members living in Washington, I realized this isn’t just some Hollywood story line,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale.
“There’s virtually no record of exactly how many indigenous women are currently missing, and I think we need to figure out the scope of this grim epidemic before we can appropriately determine a means to finding these women.”
A recent report from the National Institute of Justice found that more than four out of five Native American women have experienced violence in their lives. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control noted in 2016 that homicide is the third leading cause of death among Native American women between the ages of 10 and 24. The Department of Justice has also reported Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans.
Earth-Feather Sovereign, a member of the Confederated Tribes Of the Colville Reservation who worked with McCabe on drafting the bill, recently posted this Facebook message in support of the legislation:
“Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) are an Epidemic in Washington State. Washington State is 4th in the U.S. as having the most MMIW.
There is currently no direct data base to help identify or track our MMIW. We will hopefully see a better Data base with Bill HB-2951 in the next couple of years.”
Numerous Facebook pages attempting to draw attention to the issue have surfaced throughout the nation, including this page in October geared toward bringing awareness to missing and murdered indigenous women in Washington state.
Should the bill be signed into law, WSP would be required to report their findings to the Legislature by June 1, 2019.
The bill is now in the Senate for further consideration.