Greywind vigil

Several hundred people gatherd for an evening vigil  held for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind at the steps of the state Capitol in Bismarck on Aug. 30. LaFontaine-Greywind, an eight-month pregnant Native American woman from Fargo disappeared on Aug. 19 and her body was discovered in the Red River eight days later. 

MIKE MCCLEARY, TRIBUNE

The United Tribes of North Dakota wants the state’s congressional delegation to take action in cases of missing and murdered Native American women. In a letter to the delegation, prompted by the death of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind in Fargo, the tribes outline a number of steps they would like to see taken.

The requests in the letter are:

• Create a federal-local law enforcement task force regarding the killing of LaFontaine-Greywind to ensure justice and appropriate crime victim resources are provided to her child and family.

• Direct the Department of Justice to commission a cross-jurisdictional law enforcement task force to reopen cold files of missing and murdered Native American women. Direct the task force to create national protocols on missing Native women to coordinate with multiple jurisdictions.

• Ensure all U.S. Attorneys for North Dakota fully appreciate their treaty obligations in Indian Country.

Other recommendations include ending the exclusion of tribal governments from the federal crime victims fund, requiring the Department of Justice to collect and provide statistics on missing and murdered Native American women and providing tribal law enforcement and courts additional funding to develop protocols on missing persons.

Some of these requests will require action by Congress, none can be done solely by the delegation.

LaFontaine-Greywind's death is a horrible case and it’s understandable why the tribes would want action. It’s too early to determine whether the Fargo police response was too slow or incomplete. We know eventually the police devoted a large amount of resources to the case. Unfortunately, it’s likely LaFontaine-Greywind was dead by the time the police began investigating.

As the case moves through the courts we should get more answers.

The tribes’ proposals may have merit, but as is the case with most measures before Congress, there will be compromise involved.

There’s no doubt that Native American women have been the target of violence, too often resulting in death. More needs to be done to combat the problem.

Gov. Doug Burgum has made an effort to meet with all the tribes in the state and to improve the working relationships between them and the state. Everyone needs to take the time to listen to the concerns of all the entities involved.

LaFontaine-Greywind’s case captured the attention of the state and nation. The outcome was shocking to everyone. Now’s the time for us to discuss the issues and look for solutions.

The tribes’ requests shouldn’t be discarded because they deserve a thorough discussion. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., should let the tribes know how they plan to proceed.

The tragedy shouldn’t divide us, it should create a momentum for cooperation and solutions.

Bismarck's First Nations Day on Oct. 6 has the theme of justice for murdered and missing indigenous women across the United States and Canada. The event, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the North Dakota Heritage Center Auditorium, can be one of the first steps in finding solutions.

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