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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today across our district, state, and nation, individuals are wearing red to support the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People.
Why is today important, you might ask? May 5 was the birthday of Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. She went missing on July 4, 2013. Today is about recognizing the names and stories of all the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP). The indigenous people who are missing and taken from their tribes are someone's daughter, wife or grandchild, aunt, or even son.
This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. I'm so grateful for those who have walked from Canada to the Capitol, and those who have bicycled across the nation, often with a handprint over their mouths, to keep the spotlight on this issue.
Today, I also reflect on the work the Legislature has done in partnership with Earth-Feather Sovereign – the Colville Confederated Tribe member – in our efforts to collaborate, investigate, find, and bring home the missing and murdered indigenous persons in our state.
- House Bill 1571 ('Bring them home' bill) requires county coroners to identify and notify the family of a deceased indigenous person, allowing them to access the remains to conduct spiritual practices or ceremonies. It allows tribal members to pray over a deceased indigenous person without compromising the scene before an autopsy is conducted. Law enforcement will work with them to allow the ceremonies to be performed in accordance with tribal tradition. I believe it's essential to respect tribal cultures. The measure will also require the Washington state jail booking system to be checked during an investigation seeking missing indigenous people. Plus, it creates a pilot program with funding to provide a receiving shelter that would take in as many as 50 trafficked victims. In addition to the shelter, indigenous trafficking survivors would be able to receive mental health counseling, medical care, and legal services. My bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee at the conclusion of the 2022 session.
- House Bill 1713 established two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to build 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. My bill was signed into law in 2019.
- House Bill 2951 brought the Washington 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. My bill was signed into law in 2018.
We recognize this crisis and will continue to work together to address the violence affecting indigenous communities and to center survivors' voices in our work.
It's an honor to serve you and the citizens of the 14th District!
Honored to serve you,
431 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7856 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000