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State lawmaker proposes ways to solve Native American crimes

January 9, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The first female Native American Democrat elected to the North Dakota state Legislature has proposed two bills intended to help resolve crimes against indigenous people.

Rep. Ruth Buffalo recommended two legislative measures that would require more law enforcement training and data collection related to missing and murdered Native Americans, The Bismarck Tribune reported .

The bills are a follow-up to Savanna’s Act, a proposal introduced by former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2017. Heitkamp’s bill passed unanimously in the state, but ultimately stalled in the House.

Buffalo said the training would be made available across jurisdictions, including for tribal law enforcement.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes tragedy to sometimes bring people together to fix the gaps that exist,” Buffalo said Tuesday. “Through raising awareness, we’re hoping to prevent further cases from occurring.”

Scott Davis, Executive Director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, said the two proposals are essential to helping law enforcement cultivate methods to respond to missing person cases, in addition to developing data tracking mechanisms.

“I think that her bills are very, very important for all agencies to look at,” Davis said.

Matthew Lone Bear, the brother of Olivia Lone Bear, who vanished in 2017 on the Fort Berthold Reservation and was found deceased nearly a year later, called the proposed legislative measures a step in the right direction.

“Law enforcement doesn’t treat these issues with urgency. Olivia was missing for six, seven days before law enforcement even started asking questions,” he said. “I think having more training on that would definitely help.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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