Arizona Commission To Conduct Study on Missing Indigenous Women

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill into law on May 14 creating a task force to investigate missing or murdered Indigenous women. The new law, also known as MMIWG, will create a committee to collect data and information on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, The Arizona Republic reported. The committee will be composed of officials from the state, tribes, and counties, as well as victim advocates, social workers, and tribal police, the Arizona Public Media reported. The committee will be required to send a report on their findings to the governor by November 2020.

“The crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls must be addressed. Proud to sign #HB2570 to provide better data and information that will help inform our actions going forward,” Ducey tweeted moments after he signed the bill into law.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Representative Jennifer Jermaine and passed in the Arizona House of Representatives with a 60-0 vote on May 12, according to The Arizona Republic. The North Star reached out to Jermaine for comment about the law but did not hear back in time for publication. April Ignacio, the chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party’s Native American Cactus, told The Arizona Republic that the committee is expected to form by July. "There is so much that is possible now that we have the state recognizing that there is a problem and that they are willing to take a seat at the table to solve it," Ignacio said.

The MMIWG law passed just a few days after Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, which is held on May 3 to bring awareness to the acts of violence committed against Indigenous women and girls.

A 2016 study from The National Institute of Justice found that American Indian and Alaska Native women and men “suffer violence at alarmingly high rates.” The study also found that 84.3 percent of Indigenous women have experienced violence, which includes 56.1 percent of women who have experienced sexual violence and 55.5 percent of women who have experienced physical violence by their partners.

On May 16, Montana Representative Greg Gianforte introduced the Savanna Act, which would require federal agencies to update missing persons’ databases with their tribal affiliation. The bill was named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman and member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was murdered in August 2017.

“We face an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women in Montana and across our country. They are our sisters and daughters, and they deserve justice,” Gianforte said in a statement. “Savanna’s Act will help upgrade critical data and enhance communication among law enforcement to better address this heartbreaking crisis. With these improved tools, we can start finding answers for their families and prevent future tragedies.”

In March, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the US government would grant more than $5.7 million to support Native Americans crime victims in seven states. The award would be granted to tribes in Alaska, Washington State, California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and New Mexico.

“American Indian and Alaska Native communities face extensive public safety challenges…[the DOJ is] demonstrating their determination to meet the needs of victims in their communities,” Matt M. Dummermuth, the DOJ principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a statement. “These grants, part of historic levels of funding awarded by the Department of Justice to American Indian and Alaska Native communities, will provide significant resources to bring critical services to those who suffer the effects of crime and violence.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.