We need to be clear about what is needed to address this crisis, and it is not a photo-op where our sacred symbols of high office are degraded by being used as props by Ivanka Trump. Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, accurately called MMIWG “an unconscionable human rights emergency,” and the response must be commensurate. Federal legislation needs to be passed and fully funded. The Reduce, Return and Recover Act is a proposed bill the late US House Rep. John Lewis wanted to see introduced. It would be the most comprehensive piece of MMIW legislation. It goes far beyond Savanna’s Act and is based upon the amendments to Savanna’s Act that were submitted to Members of Congress by the tribal alliance of the Global Indigenous Council, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council.
Those amendments the tribes on the frontlines of the MMIWG tragedy wanted were not included in either the final House or Senate versions of the bill. The media reported that the sponsors of the Senate bill, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), feared those amendments cost too much money to pass through the appropriations procedure. So we ask, what are the lives of our women and girls worth?
The press also reported that Senator Lisa Murkowski furnished Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr with a copy of those amendments to Savanna’s Act, which influenced the Department of Justice’s “Operation Lady Justice,” and the foundation of these regional offices. Native News Online (11/23/2019) reported:
“A DOJ official speaking on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that a combination of Barr’s visit to Alaska Native villages in May with Senator Lisa Murkowski, the GIC/RMTLC/GPTCA Savanna’s Act amendments that had been presented to Murkowski the previous December, and Senator Jon Tester’s Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act – all provided impetus for Barr to act.”
At no time during this process did the DOJ reach out directly to the tribal alliance to consult with us or our member tribes to create strong and robust articles for implementation. The consensus among our tribal members is that the Trump administration has watered down our recommendations, and once again, not assigned adequate funding to effectively implement the initiatives. This is yet another political stunt from this administration. Not unlike the specious claims made by this president about how much he has done for African-Americans, while comparing Black Lives Matter to domestic terror groups.
The Trump administration originally committed $1.5 million dollars to the effort. To put that into context, when the president signed the Operation Lady Justice executive order, the administration had already spent $118 million dollars on his golf trips. Conspicuously, Attorney General Barr also omitted one of our main proposals: clamping down on the lawless extractive industry “man camps” that have rightly been called “the nitroglycerin” of the MMIWG tragedy. That Secretary Bernhardt, a former extractive industry lobbyist, has been appointed to co-chair the Operation Lady Justice Task Force requires no further comment.