FARGO, N.D. -- A bill meant to help authorities solve cases in which Native American women go missing or are killed on tribal land looks like it will expire before getting a vote in the U.S. House.
The Senate passed the initiative sponsored by outgoing North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, but Heitkamp said the bill is being blocked by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, KFGO radio reported . It's not clear why Goodlatte, a Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, is standing in the way.
"I'd like to see Congressman Goodlatte actually visit a reservation in North Dakota and explain to the families of victims why he is blocking this bill," Heitkamp said. "Unlike Congressman Goodlatte, I am serious about saving lives and making sure Native American women are invisible no longer."
Goodlatte's office did not respond to KFGO's requests for interviews.
The measure is named "Savanna's Act" for Savanna Greywind, a slain North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb. The bill aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing or slain Native American women.
Heitkamp has said that if authorities had more accurate statistics they might be able to detect patters to help solve more cases, although it likely would not have applied to Greywind's because it was not a federal case.
Native American activists have asked Rep. Kevin Cramer — who will take over Heitkamp's Senate seat next month — to help advance the bill before the end of the current session. If not, it will expire. A handful of demonstrators gathered outside Cramer's Fargo office on Wednesday.
"If he can stand behind us Native Americans, if he can stand behind humanity, then we can move forward," protester Amanda Vivier said. "We implore (Cramer) to not let the clock run out on Savanna's Act."
Cramer did not return messages left by KFGO.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the Greywind family, said that the only good to come from such a horrific crime is the possibility that other Native American women may benefit from the legislation.
Information from: KFGO-AM, http://www.kfgo.com