Congress passes a landmark bill to help stop the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women
via Lorie Shaull / Flickr

The epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in America is one of the country's most disturbing trends. A major reason it persists is because it's rarely discussed outside of the native community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women under age 19.

Women who live on some reservations face rates of violence that are as much as ten times higher than the national average.


The problem stems from a lack of community resources, prejudice, poverty, and poor communication between Native communities and law enforcement.

Red dress display to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women.via Kerron L / Flickr

Many women disappear from remote reservations without a single law enforcement officer. "The resources are spread so thin, it allows people to fall through the cracks," Billy J. Stratton, an expert in Native American studies at the University of Denver, told CNN.

But the problem goes much deeper than law enforcement.

"When you're talking about a group of people who is among the lowest socioeconomic class in the US, they're more susceptible to violence than others," Stratton said.

"Poverty is the main driver; dispossession, lack of empowerment, isolation, and those other social problems I think flow from that," he added.

Violence against Native people also gets very little attention from the mainstream media.

"I live on a reservation, it's word of mouth. We can report [someone missing or dead] to the authorities," Tillie Aldrich, an Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member, told Teen Vogue.

"If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it's all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up," she continued. "If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet."

The response to cases of violence against native American women is so poor that in 2016 there were 5,712 cases reported of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but only 116 cases were logged by the Department of Justice database.

However, a new bill passed by Congress hopes to reverse this trend in violence and law enforcement inaction.

On Monday, the House of Representatives passed Savanna's Act, which will go to the desk of President Trump for final approval.

The bill is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe from Fargo, North Dakota. In 2017, at the age of 22, while eight months pregnant her unborn child was cut out of her womb and she was murdered. The baby survived.

The bill requires federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to update policies and protocols to address missing or murdered Native Americans.

It also requires the U.S. Department of Justice to develop new guidelines for response to missing or murdered Native people and provide database training to law enforcement agencies at all levels.

"Savanna's Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans," Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement.

"We appreciate our House colleagues for passing the bill today and sending it on to the president to become law," the statement continues. "At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice."

"Passage of Savanna's Act brings us one step closer to ending this epidemic by upgrading critical data and improving communication among law enforcement," Republican Representative from Montana Greg Gianforte said in a statement.

The bill is a positive first step toward combating the issue of missing and murdered Indiginous women, but much more will have to be done before the problem is solved.

"Stopping the #MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] crisis will take years and maybe decades," Sarah Deer, Muscogee, a professor at the University of Kansas, told Teen Vogue.

"It must be a multi-faceted movement led by family members of missing Indigenous women," she added. "Those families are the experts on this crisis and should be the leaders of the movement."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less