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Bill to help missing indigenous persons clears committee

 


A bill that would establish two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to further investigations of missing and murdered indigenous women and other indigenous persons passed the House Appropriations Committee Thursday.

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, author of House Bill 1713, says the measure is currently in the Rules Committee and could soon be pulled to the House floor for a vote.

The measure continues upon legislation passed last year that brought the State Patrol together with federally recognized tribes, tribal law enforcement, urban Indian organizations and the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs to study and identify the issue of missing Native American women in Washington state and report recommendations to the Legislature.

“This is the next critical step in the process of finding these missing persons, determining what happened and providing answers and justice for the victims' families,” said Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale.

Mosbrucker said the two liaisons would work to build relationships between government and native communities and provide investigative assistance. Applicants would need to have significant experience living in tribal or urban indigenous communities.

The measure would also require the WSP to develop a best practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing persons reports.

“Originally, the bill focused on missing and murdered Native women, but we learned tribes are missing family members,” noted Mosbrucker.

Earth-Feather Sovereign, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who worked with Mosbrucker on legislation last year and this year, gave several startling statistics Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee.

“One in three Native American women will experience domestic violence. One in two Native American women will experience sexual assault. Seventy percent of these cases are caused by non-tribal people. Sixty-seven percent of these cases go unprosecuted,” said Sovereign.

“More than 10,600 Native American people went missing last year and 5,712 were women. There are 634 open cases of missing people in Washington state and only 98 open cases of missing and murdered indigenous women,” she added. “We need answers. Our women and children are the guardian of our nation. If we can't protect our women, we can't protect our nation.”

Mosbrucker is optimistic the bill will be brought to the House floor for a vote.

“There's an immense amount of support for this legislation. When you hear the stories and see the pain from these tribal families, it's very emotional. We need to take action to stop the violence,” said Mosbrucker.

 

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