VIDEO: Udall Leads Oversight Hearing on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led an oversight hearing entitled, “Missing and Murdered: Confronting the Silent Crisis in Indian Country.” The committee has convened two hearings and a listening session, and worked to pass numerous bills related to criminal justice and public safety this Congress, but this oversight hearing is the first to directly address the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis.
“Today’s hearing is an important step toward fully understanding the scope - and working to address - the crisis in Indian Country,” Udall noted in his opening statement. “It is absolutely crucial we address these gaps for missing and murdered Indigenous women and improve federal policies to make better progress.”
“We will hear the witnesses today calling on the committee to do more,” Udall noted. “And no ifs, ands, or buts about it – we must do more.”
At the hearing, the committee received testimony from Kimberly Loring-Heavy Runner, the sister of missing Blackfeet woman Ashley Loring-Heavy Runner from Montana, that highlighted the challenges MMIW families members encounter when seeking help. The committee also heard from five additional witnesses representing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institutes of Justice (NIJ), the Office of Justice Services within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (OJS-BIA), the Navajo Nation, and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, in an effort to work with tribal leaders and committee members to address gaps in the justice system that allow the MMIW crisis to continue.
Udall emphasized the importance of not only meeting the public safety needs of Indian country with adequate funding and law enforcement personnel, but also ensuring that federal agencies coordinate all available resources and consult with tribal stakeholders, such as tribal law enforcement and victims’ families, in confronting the MMIW crisis.
“Kimberly, your [testimony] said law enforcement failed your sister, and you noted other failures that you heard about,” Udall said to Kimberly Loring-Heavy Runner. “If we don’t even have the minimum number of law enforcement officers, then we are going to have more of those failures.”
The oversight hearing marks the last official meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during the 115th Congress. Yesterday, Senate Democratic leadership announced Udall will continue his service as vice chairman in the 116th Congress. Udall remains committed to addressing the MMIW crisis and will continue to use his leadership position on the committee to champion new legislation, continued oversight, and fighting for increases in resources for tribes and law enforcement.
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