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Tester reintroduces “Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment” Act

Posted at 11:09 AM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 13:09:53-05
U.S. Senator Jon Tester speaks during a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing about missing and murdered Indigenous women in December 2018.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester has announced he is reintroducing the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act.

The bill would give tribes access to a critical source of funding they can use to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence get back on their feet.

States can apply for resources through the Crimes Victims Fund directly, but tribes have to go through the states, according to a Friday press release.

As a result, these funds rarely make their way to Indian Country. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Indian Country received less than 0.5 percent of Crime Victims Funds between 2010 and 2014.

The SURVIVE Act would set aside funding each year that tribes could use to help survivors pay for shelter, medical care, counseling, and legal assistance.

Tester originally introduced this bill back in 2016 after hearing directly from tribal leaders about the need for more victim services across Indian Country, according to the press release.

(January 23, 2019) U.S. Senator Steve Daines has requested a Montana field hearing on missing and murdered Indigenous people.

In a letter addressed to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Daines encourages them to continue the “important attention to the epidemic of American Indians and Alaskan Natives who go missing each year.”

Daines stated that while the Committee held an oversight hearing in December of 2018, many questions are still unanswered and more Indigenous people have gone missing, especially in the Northern Rockies region.

Daines asks Chairman John Hoeven and Vice Chairman Tom Udall to bring the Committee’s work to Montana and hold a field hearing as soon as possible so legislators can hear directly from families and tribal members on the ground.

In the letter, Daines asks that May 5th be designated each year as a National Day of Awareness in honor of Hanna Harris’s birthday. Harris was a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who went missing and was later found murdered in 2013.

The letter also mentions Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, Roylynn Rides Horse, Kenzley Olson, and Henny Scott, who was missing for 15 days before her body was found on December 28, 2018.

Daines wrote the crisis also crosses gender lines as Matthew Grant’s family still awaits resolution to his murder.

“We asked many important questions of the federal agencies during the hearing in December including what protocol the agencies use when there is a missing person’s report, how agencies respond to initial reports, and how the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are working to better communicate with families affected by the epidemic,” Daines stated. “These questions and more still need answers.”

Daines then writes that holding a formal Committee hearing in Montana would be an important next step.