May 05, 2020

Udall Introduces Resolution Recognizing National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined 11 senators to introduce a bipartisan resolution designating May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

Available data from the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that Native women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average murder rate, there are more than 5,000 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and that 55 percent of Native women have experienced domestic violence.

“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis is appalling and demands the attention of the federal government and our nation—especially now in light of reports of domestic violence increases caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Udall said. “Today’s resolution recognizing the MMIW crisis is critically important to raising awareness, and I will continue to work in Congress to see that the next coronavirus relief package includes domestic violence prevention and response resources for all communities – including and especially those in Indian Country.

“But, the Senate must also work on reauthorizinge a VAWA package that includes the key Tribal and MMIW-response provisions that I’ve championed,” Udall continued.  “It’s now been more than a year since the House sent over their bipartisan VAWA reauthorization. I urge Majority Leader McConnell and Republican leadership to join our efforts to address MMIW and reauthorize VAWA. We must act to strengthen the law and fully extend its protections to Tribal communities – the safety and security of countless women in New Mexico and across Indian Country hang in the balance.”

The House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired in February, over one year ago. The legislation includes important provisions that would build on the landmark Tribal jurisdiction provisions of the 2013 reauthorization, including measures based on Udall’s bipartisan bill, the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA), and Senator Tina Smith’s (D-Minn.) bipartisan bill, the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, which Udall co-sponsored. 

Udall was also a leader in the 2013 effort to amend VAWA to restore Tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes committed on reservations, which was instrumental to ensuring that Native women enjoy the same protection from domestic abuse as all other women in the United States. Earlier in his career, he worked to prevent and prosecute domestic violence when he served as New Mexico’s attorney general, and even convened the first statewide roundtable on domestic violence.

Last month, Udall joined a bipartisan Senate push to incorporate strong protections and funding provisions for violence prevention in Tribal communities. The provisions Udall is pushing for would include $375 million in additional funding to Department of Justice domestic violence-related programs and grants created by VAWA and over $55.2 million in dedicated set-aside funding for Tribal governments and Tribal Organizations.

Udall developed the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA) in response to feedback from Tribes and Native women’s advocates that violent offenders continued to use legal loopholes to avoid prosecution in Tribal communities. The bill address three such loopholes by reaffirming Tribal authority to prosecute attempted and threatened domestic violence and extending protections to children and law enforcement personnel involved in domestic violence incidents on Tribal lands. The bill will also enhance federal coordination of victim resources for Tribal communities. 

As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Udall has helped lead efforts in Congress to combat violence against Native women by convening oversight hearings and listening sessions to learn from Tribes on how to implement and improve VAWA to better serve Indian Country’s needs. He has also cosponsored bipartisan legislation that recently passed the Senate, Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, to combat the MMIW crisis by increasing coordination among all levels of law enforcement, improving data collection and information sharing, and empowering Tribal governments with the resources they need in cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women and girls wherever they occur. 

Udall joined Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), along with Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and James Risch (R-Idaho).