Bill signed to help Native women

 

Lou Marzeles

OLYMPIA SNAPSHOTS: The Sentinel editor was in Olympia last week, recording in photojournalism some milestone moments. Top, Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker affording more help for murdered and missing Native American women.

Surrounded by members of Native American tribes from throughout Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee signed landmark legislation Wednesday authored by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker that takes a major step toward advancing the investigations of missing and murdered indigenous persons.

"This is a significant day for tribal members on and off reservations across our state. It helps to break the silence involved in this issue and creates a coordinated effort to bring together tribes, government, and law enforcement in the investigations of missing Native Americans in our state," said Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale.

House Bill 1713 establishes two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol (WSP) for the purpose of building relationships between government and native communities. It also requires WSP to develop a best practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing person reports for indigenous women and other indigenous people. Plus, it requires the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs to provide WSP with government-to-government training.

Attending the bill signing was Earth-Feather Sovereign, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who had been seeking help for more than a decade and brought the issue to Mosbrucker's attention in 2018.

"I know how hard it is to miss someone that you love and really care about. And I know that everybody is impacted by somebody that they are missing. We all want to protect the ones we love," said Sovereign. "Everyone should have the right to walk around feeling free and protected from harm. Today's bill signing is significant, because it lets us know that we matter."

This is Mosbrucker's second bill on the issue. House Bill 2951, which passed last year, 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. Mosbrucker introduced that legislation after meeting with Sovereign. She says Sovereign has also been instrumental this year in helping House Bill 1713 to move forward.

"Earth-Feather has been such an inspiration to me in her journey to help find lost loved ones, secure justice for those who are missing or have been murdered, and to shine a bright light on this issue so that current and future generations do not have to wonder, 'Am I next?'" said Mosbrucker.

It's estimated that as many as 85 percent of Native women will experience violence in their lives. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women. Mosbrucker noted many become the victims of human trafficking.

"I'm also very appreciative of the bipartisan effort of Democratic Rep. Debra Lekanoff, who is of Native heritage, and testified with me side-by-side to advance this legislation," added Mosbrucker. "She and I both recognize this is not a partisan issue. It's a people issue that deeply affects families across our state. It's time to end this injustice."

House Bill 1713 takes effect in late July.

Above, Mosbrucker wearing a blanket given her by tribes and being interviewed by a news crew.

 

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