First Pilot Program to Improve Law Enforcement Response in Native Communities Launched After Passage of Tester’s Savanna’s Act

Tribal pilot project will establish collaborative community response to missing persons cases in accordance with Tester’s bill

A pilot program launched by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation (CSKT) is developing a collaborative community response plan to quickly address emergent Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) cases in Indian Country, thanks to directives outlined through the recent enactment of U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s groundbreaking legislation, Savanna’s Act.

Savanna’s Act gives us the tools to help address the MMIP crisis, and now those tools are being put to use,” said Tester. “The implementation of this program is a step forward for Montana Tribes, MMIP advocates, and the survivors of violence that worked tirelessly to see Savanna’s Act over the finish line. I’ll keep pushing to ensure Indian Country has the resources necessary to continue to combat this crisis head-on and ensure our Native communities are safe.”

In accordance with Tester’s Savanna’s Act, the CSKT’s pilot project will develop a Tribal Community Response Plan (TCRP) to improve the collaborative response to missing Indigenous person cases by Tribal governments, law enforcement, and other partners through regionally appropriate guidelines. CSKT’s TCRP pilot project is the first of its kind in the nation, and its results will serve as a guide to establish similar regional programs across the U.S.

Indigenous women and girls in Montana face murder rates that are ten times higher than the national average, and according to the National Institute of Justice, more than 80 percent of Native American women have experienced violence, and half have experienced it within the last year.

Tester’s Savanna’s Act, signed into law earlier this year, is named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was murdered in North Dakota in August of 2017.

Savanna’s Act works to improve information sharing between Tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and increase data collection on cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous people. It requires:

  • Law enforcement training on how to record victim Tribal enrollment information in federal databases;
  • The creation of standardized, regionally-appropriate guidelines for inter-jurisdictional cooperation on cases; and
  • The Attorney General to include data on missing and murdered Indigenous people in an annual report to Congress.