U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) have introduced a resolution to designate May 5, 2017 as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.
The resolution was drafted in memory of the birthday of Hanna Harris, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who was murdered in July 2013.
It also comes on the same day that RoyLynn Rideshorse, who was beaten and burned in April and left to die in a field, passed away.
A joint press release from the Congressional delegation says that the resolution "seeks to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women whose cases are documented and undocumented in public records and the media."
According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, in some tribal communities, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide was the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 and 34 years of age.
“I am heartbroken by the recent of murder of RoyLynn Rides Horse. Tragically it’s a symptom of the greater epidemic of tribal women who go missing and are murdered at staggering rates,” said Daines, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “We are ringing the alarm to this devastating epidemic.”
“It is critical that we shed more light on the hardships that Native women and their families often face,” said Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “But words must be followed up with actions, and I am committed to working with the Montana Congressional delegation and Montana tribes to increase the safety of Native women and ensure they have every opportunity to thrive.”
U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke is introducing a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives next week when the House is in session.
"The attack and murder of RoyLynn Rides Horse shook my soul as a husband, father, Montanan, and as someone whose job has been to keep people safe,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke. “I offer my deepest condolences to her family and community. My office is working diligently with Crow tribal law enforcement to support the community, but we must do more to raise awareness of the epidemic of murdered and missing women and children in Native communities. I am saddened by the circumstances for this Congressional resolution, but I am proud to help honor RoyLynn, Hanna Harris, and countless others who have tragically lost their lives. Raising awareness will help save lives and prevent another heartbreaking outcome."
The delegation’s efforts to raise awareness were applauded by tribal organizations:
Lucy Simpson, Executive Director of the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center: “The harsh reality of our lives as Native women is that we witness our sisters, mothers, daughters and community members disappear and nothing is done, We strongly support the resolution calling for a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women to help increase awareness and shed light on the countless tragedies involving our Native sisters.”
The National Congress of American Indians: “The National Congress of American Indians supports the Montana delegation’s efforts to bring attention to those Native women and girls who have been murdered or are missing throughout Indian Country. We are hopeful that this awareness day will start a much-needed dialogue on what we can all do collectively to ensure our Native women and girls are afforded the safety that they deserve.”
Toni Plummer-Alvernaz, Executive Director, Montana Native Women’s Coalition: “On behalf of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition and the native women we serve, I would like to acknowledge Senators Daines and Tester and Congressman Zinke and their staff for recognizing and finally acknowledging the many, many missing and murder native women throughout all of Indian Country but in-particular Montana’s Indian Country. This resolution is some small way will validate the hearts and assist in resolving the grief of all the Native families who have native women that are missing or murdered. I hope this resolution will stimulate efforts to address this horrible issue throughout Indian County. Thank you to the Montana delegation for being brave and finally breaking the silence and acknowledging the native women who are missing and those that have been murder.”