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Nebraska advances bill requiring tracking of missing Indigenous women, Montana not far behind

A bill that would require better tracking of cases involving missing Native American women has advanced out of a Nebraska legislative committee.

Members of the Judiciary Committee voted 7-0 Wednesday to send the measure to the full Legislature.

The bill would require the Nebraska State Patrol to collect data on missing Native American women and organize meetings with law enforcement agencies, tribes and the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. The patrol would report all of its findings to lawmakers by June 1, 2020.

In this July 14, 2018, file photo, a makeshift memorial stands near the scene where Charlene Mancha was murdered by her husband last year on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont.

Sen. Tom Brewer, of Gordon, Neb., is the bill’s lead sponsor. Brewer says communication failures among local, state, and federal agencies can lead such cases to fall through the cracks.

Recent national studies have found that a disproportionately large number of Native American women have experienced violence.

Montana showing progress

Montana lawmakers are considering legislation meant to address what officials call the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that supporters of the bills testified for hours before a legislative panel on Wednesday then held a rally in the Capitol rotunda.

One measure would appropriate $100,000 a year to the state Department of Justice to hire a missing persons specialist who would work with local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement authorities.

In this July 11, 2018 file photo, Roxanne White, whose aunt was murdered in 1996, sings and drums a women’s warrior and honor song created for missing and murdered indigenous women, before joining a search in Valier, Mont., for Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, who disappeared last year from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Members of the legislative Indian Caucus say that the bill, called Hanna’s Act, would be the first step in ensuring that missing Native women don’t fall through the cracks of the legal system.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Rae Peppers of Lame Deer, Mont., is in remembrance of Hanna Harris, a Lame Deer woman killed in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

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