Here's why a senator wants to name a law after a Fargo homicide victim

Savanna Greywind's death is being treated as part of an epidemic.

Savanna Greywind

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota says a bill she's pushing in hopes of reducing crimes against Native American women will be named after Savanna Greywind. 

Greywind, 22, was eight months pregnant when she was reported missing in Fargo in August. Authorities searching for her first found her newborn baby in an apartment. Days later Greywind's body was pulled from the Red River with authorities saying she'd died of "homicidal violence."

Heitkamp said in a statement Thursday that Greywind's death is part of an epidemic of missing and murdered Native women and girls. 

What the bill would do

Native women are murdered at a rate that's 10 times the national average, Heitkamp says, and in North Dakota alone there were at least 125 Native women reported missing last year. 

But the senator suspects an accurate count would be higher _ and that's part of the problem her bill tries to address. 

As the National Institute for Justice has pointed out, federal crime statistics generally don't include numbers from tribal reservations. 

Plus, Heitkamp says, tribal police don't have access to the criminal databases of federal agencies. She says "Savanna's Act" would improve coordination between law enforcement agencies – improving the chances of solving or preventing crimes.

Savanna as a symbol 

Savanna Greywind lived not on a reservation, but in an apartment in Fargo. Two of her neighbors are charged with killing her and have entered not guilty pleas. 

But the search for Greywind in her state's biggest city and the survival of her baby made her case unique and put her in the public eye.

Now, in death, she is becoming the face of the larger problem of Native women victimized by homicide, abduction, trafficking, and exploitation. 

After her death, the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center issued a statement on Greywind "and All Missing and Murdered Native Women & Girls." 

"There is so much work to be done to end this horrific legacy and history of violence against our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties, and friends," they wrote. 

While Savanna's Act is pending in Washington, the Center has is working with tribes on the issue. A document they recently distributed is called "When a Woman is Missing: a Toolkit for Action." 

You can see Heitkamp's Senate floor speech about "Savanna's Act" here.


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