Congressman Markwayne Mullin has a top-drawer staff working for him, and they crank out the press releases, sometimes a handful each week. But like those of other politicians, Mullin’s press releases are generally riddled with partisan comments and attacks on opponents, effectively making them opinion pieces more than fact-based submissions.

But last week, one came in that — like the opioid issue Mullin has focused so much energy on — was more informative than opinionated, with a nod to bipartisan efforts. And the subject matter is very near and dear to the hearts of local residents.

Mullin’s PR folks say he’s linked up with others of both parties to introduce House Resolution 4289, also called the BADGES for Native Communities Act. The intent is to help curb violence against Native women and focus on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. This is a move area activists, as well as the American Indian Resource Center, have been pushing for several years. If the measure succeeds, it will strive to remove barriers that hamper the ability of law enforcement agencies to share data, as well as promote officer recruitment and retention. Furthermore, it will shore up safety programs for Native tribes, with the goal of making them permanent.

Studies show that Native women are more victimized than any other ethnic group. That’s true not just in the United States, but in Canada as well. Although large, well-organized tribes like the Cherokee Nation do have certain resources to address the problem, that’s not true for smaller tribes with no access to stable revenue streams. This measure could potentially do wonders, especially for rural tribes based in remote areas.

According to Mullin, BADGES would deal with deficiencies in federal criminal databases and improve tribal access to that material; streamline public data on cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Indian Country, plus increase law enforcement staffing; help with BIA law enforcement recruitment and retention; give tribes resources to hone safety coordination among their governments and state and federal agencies; and intervene to prevent the mishandling of evidence critical to getting violent offenders convicted and put behind bars where they belong.

This is a problem that society has turned its back on for far too long. Those who have been shining a spotlight on the abuses of indigenous women have been doing what they can, by traveling around the continent to education others — both indigenous women in matters of safety, and law enforcement officers on how to deal with this tragic situation.

Mullin and others working on this project should move ahead with this act, even if they get pushback. The survival of untold numbers of women will depend on it.

— Tahlequah Daily Press

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