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Native American Legislative Update

December 2019

By Kerri Colfer, December 30, 2019


Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! The NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage your members of Congress. FCNL's Congressional Advocate for Native American policy is Kerri Colfer (Tlingit).

Executive Order Falls Short for Missing and Murdered Native Women

Tell Congress:

Reauthorize VAWA with increased protections for Native women.

Act Now 

President Trump signed an executive order on Nov. 26 creating a task force to address the crisis of violence in Indian Country. The task force, led by the Departments of Justice and the Interior, will develop protocols for law enforcement agencies responding to cases of missing and murdered Native women and girls.

This is an important step, but Congress must also do its part by restoring tribal jurisdiction in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Read FCNL’s statement on the executive order, and urge your senators to resume bipartisan VAWA negotiations with provisions that respect tribal sovereignty.

Barr Creates New Initiative for Indian Country

In another effort to address violence in Native communities, Attorney General William Barr announced on Nov. 22 the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative. This national strategy establishes coordinators in 11 states who will be responsible for developing procedures for responding to cases of missing or murdered Indigenous people. The initiative also provides opportunities for state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to receive assistance from the FBI.

However, this initiative was created without properly consulting and coordinating with tribes. It also only provides $1.5 million to fund these new positions. For real progress to be made, jurisdiction must be restored so that tribes can address violence in their own communities.

FCNL Supports Rescinding Medals of Honor

FCNL endorsed the Remove the Stain Act (H.R. 3467) this month. The bill would rescind the Medals of Honor awarded to soldiers who participated in the massacre of an estimated 350-375 unarmed Lakota people at Wounded Knee in 1890. The act also seeks to honor Native veterans, who serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the country.

Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) first introduced the act in the House, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Senate Committee Advances BADGES Act

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously passed the Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act (S. 1853) on Dec. 11. The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (NM) in June, would make it easier for tribal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to work together on cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

It would also increase tribal access to federal criminal databases, enhance data collection, improve recruitment and retention of Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officers, and help tribes coordinate public safety efforts. The legislation will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:

BADGES for Native Communities Act (S. 1853):

Passed in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and moved to the full Senate for consideration.

What We're Reading:


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Kerri Colfer

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Kerri manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.