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About 20 people gathered outside Rep. Kevin Cramer's office Wednesday morning, calling for Cramer to work with his colleagues to pass Savanna's Act.

Savanna's Act, introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., aims to improve tribal access to federal crime databases, create protocols for responding to missing Native Americans and establish an annual report to Congress. It is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and murdered in Fargo last year.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed the act unanimously, but it is currently being held up in the U.S. House of Representatives with just days left in the 2018 session.

"We implore (Cramer) to not let the clock run out on Savanna's Act," said Sheridan Seaboy-McNeil, who helped organize the rally.

Cramer responded to the rally in a statement on Facebook, stating that he has contacted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about Savanna's Act and the "hurdles the House must overcome to pass the bill.

"I intend to work with my colleagues about hearing and passing it in the remaining hours of the 115th Congress," Cramer said. "We are rapidly running out of time to approve a bill the Senate took over one year to pass and the House received on Dec. 10."

Some rally attendees wore red in honor of indigenous women who are missing or murdered and held up cutouts of women that read "aunt," "sister" and "daughter." Additional rallies were held in Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks.

"We want people to know that this is going on, that we're tired of our sisters going missing, our mothers, our aunts, our grandmothers," said Angel Young, of Bismarck, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Seaboy-McNeil, also a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said the rally was held to bring a "sense of urgency" and ask Cramer to see that the act passes before Congress adjourns for the year.

"He gives a great speech and everything, but we just need more action, especially now," Seaboy-McNeil said.

Heitkamp has said on social media that Savanna’s Act is being "blocked" by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

A House Judiciary Committee aide said the committee has been working with the Department of Justice and other stakeholders to address issues with the language of Savanna’s Act. The aide did not elaborate on what the concerns are.

Goodlatte’s office has not responded to Tribune requests to interview the congressman.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Tuesday that he's not sure where the legislation is at in the House, but is "willing to help out if (he) can."

"If they amend it over there, obviously we'd bring it back here and we would work to re-pass it if that's what we need to do, or whatever it is we need to do," Hoeven said.

Heitkamp said in a statement that Goodlatte and House Republicans "should trust the 100 senators who helped pass" Savanna's Act two weeks ago.

"We are so close to getting Savanna’s Act across the finish line and we must make sure these women are no longer invisible," she said.

Seaboy-McNeil said Cramer's action in encouraging his fellow lawmakers to pass Savanna's Act would mean a lot to native communities in the state.

"If he actually just makes that phone call, you know, call your colleague and convince him that this is important," she said.

North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis also encouraged attendees of a conference with tribal and state leaders on Wednesday to pick up their phones and encourage the passage of Savanna's Act, calling it "very important legislation."

"I think that really needs to be pushed," Davis said during the Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships & Relationships Conference in Bismarck.

Young and her sister, Nicole Donaghy, stood outside Cramer's officer on Wednesday in hopes to spread awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women.

"We've all lost somebody in our family that went missing, and some are still missing," Young said.

"Am I going to be a statistic someday? It could be my daughter. For native women today, that's our fear: Are we next?" Donaghy said.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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