NORTHSTATE, Calif. — On Tuesday this week, Aug. 29, Assembly Bill No. 1314 was passed by a vote of 6-1.
The bill would authorize a law enforcement agency to request the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to activate a "Feather Alert," if specified criteria are satisfied with respect to an endangered indigenous person who has been reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.
If those specified requirements are met, the bill would require the department to activate a Feather Alert within the appropriate geographical area requested by the investigating law enforcement agency and to assist the agency by disseminating specified alert messages and signs.
The passing of the bill is a big deal for indigenous people because they experience high rates of violence against them and are reported missing or are murdered at high rates as well.
The goal of the Feather Alert System is to engage with law enforcement agencies to notify the public when an indigenous person is kidnapped.
District 40 State Assemblyman James C. Ramos described the impact of the passing of the bill.
AB 1314 would bring attention and effort to end a cycle of violence in tribal lands across California and the nation. Missing and murdered indigenous people is happening and it's a crisis and it's been happening for many years, now it's rising to the level of those legislators not only here in the state of California but others in the nation to bring resolve to this issue.
Ramos also said, "this is one step that we can do this year and this will be one step in addressing this issue."
Accompanying Ramos at the assembly was Chairperson Janet Bill of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians and she said that missing indigenous people are more than just statistics.
We have all heard the statistics of missing and murdered indigenous persons, we do not want to be known solely as statistics, but as the human beings we are. Who deserve to be found, to be safe and protected by our systems. AB 1314 moves us towards this.
Also accompanying Ramos was Mike Lopez, the vice chairman of the Santa Ynez Chumash Indians of Santa Barbara County.
This measure is long overdue and incredibly necessary as the statistics of this population are off the charts, unacceptable, and something needs to be done," Lopez said.
According to California Legislative, a study in 2016 by the National Institute of Justice found that more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. Specifically Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, human trafficking, and murder, and become missing at much higher rates than people of other racial groups.
Studies conducted by The Urban Indian Health Institute found there to be over 5,700 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, but only 116 of the women in the cases were placed on the United States Department of Justice’s missing persons list.
A different study done by the Sovereign Bodies Institute in 2020 found that only 165 missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit were reported across California.
The amount of cases that were reported makes California one of the top-five states with the highest number of cases. The report was funded and coauthored by the Yurok Tribe.
With California having the largest population of Native Americans out of any state in the United States, the Legislature intends to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people to ensure that it is a priority at every level.
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