Savanna's Act reintroduced to Congress; Sens. Cramer, Hoeven co-sponsoring

Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind
Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind

FARGO — Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven announced Monday, Jan. 28, that they're both co-sponsoring Savanna's Act, a bill that's been reintroduced in Congress.

"This is important legislation that will help us further combat crimes on tribal lands," Cramer, R-N.D., said in a news release.

Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., initially introduced Savanna's Act — which passed the Senate but stalled last year in the House — with the aim of collecting data on missing and murdered indigenous people.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., announced Monday that they have reintroduced the legislation. It's named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old pregnant Fargo woman from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northeast North Dakota. She was murdered in 2017, and her baby was cut from her womb.

"Senator Heitkamp was a true leader on this issue and an advocate for indigenous peoples throughout her tenure in the Senate. I’m proud to reintroduce this bill and continue our efforts to bring much needed attention and coordination to the issue of murdered and missing Native women,” Murkowski said in a statement.

Cramer told The Forum in late December that he wanted changes made to the bill so it "doesn't disadvantage law enforcement agencies," adding that the Fraternal Order of Police had concerns.

Cramer said Monday that the changes he sought were not included in the reintroduced bill. "This legislation is too important for us to make perfect the enemy of the good," Cramer said in a statement.

The reintroduced bill would increase coordination and communication among law enforcement, including federal, state, tribal and local agencies, Murkowski's office said in a news release.

It's the first piece of major legislation that specifically addresses missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, according to Murkowski's office. It requires federal agencies to seek recommendations from tribes to improve safety, and to create standardized guidelines for reporting and responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

Hoeven, R-N.D., also announced Monday that he's reintroduced two other bills to improve tribal public safety. The Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act would increase resources for tribal victim assistance. And the second bill would reauthorize the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and add requirements for greater agency oversight, better data collection and stronger protections for native youth.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.