Bills Designed To Reduce Murders, Cases Of Missing Indigenous People
Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are rolling out a series of bills to combat what they call the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma ranks number ten in the nation when it comes to missing and murdered indigenous people, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. But it’s hard to tell for sure just how widespread the problem is because there’s no solid data.
Advocates said it’s an epidemic.
“And I call this an epidemic because it is. It’s a crisis across the United States. This has been a crisis for over 20 years,” said Brenda Golden with the Muskogee Creek Nation.
So, lawmakers are proposing a series of bills they hope will provide solutions. House Bill 3345 is named for Ida Beard, who disappeared in El Reno in June of 2015.
“What this bill does is it creates a position within the OSBI that will coordinate specifically in indigenous communities and Indian country to help families who have been impacted navigate the jurisdictional boundaries that are often very complicated,” said Representative Mickey Dollens (D) Oklahoma City.
House Bill 2848 would require law enforcement to undergo training on missing and murdered indigenous people and cultural sensitivity
“Many times, they aren’t taken seriously. They’re told they’re just out drinking, or drugging and they’ll be back. The police departments don’t take the issue seriously until maybe weeks or months and by that time the trail is cold,” said Golden.
Another bill would create a Red Alert system, similar to the Amber Alert system, which would notify the public and media when someone who identifies as Native American is abducted.
“They don’t have to whip out a card or any kind of enrollment data to show that they are in fact a native American. We want to play on the safe side,” said Golden.
House Bill 3893 would require the Department of Education to keep a database of photos of all Oklahoma children, native or not, so if they are abducted police have a recent picture.
“Every native person in Oklahoma has had this issue touch their life. It’s touched my life. It’s touched many of my family’s lives. We’ve either had a friend or family member gone missing or murdered,” Golden said. “We could lead the nation in tackling human trafficking and the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people.”