News Releases

In observance of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls National Day of Awareness, Senator Murray joined Senate Democrats to highlight longstanding crisis impacting Native women & tribal communities in Washington state and nationwide 

Additionally, in a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Murray called out Senate Republicans for letting the critical Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) lapse 

The House recently passed reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act that strengthens protections for tribal communities, but Senate Republicans have yet to take it up 

Senator Murray, top Democrat on the Senate health committee, has long championed VAWA, including strengthening tribal resources in the law when it was last reauthorized in 2013 

Senator Murray: “From the Yakama Nation, to Spokane, to Tacoma, the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women…is an alarming trend devastating communities every day throughout Washington state and across the country—one for which Native women and girls are paying the ultimate price”

Senator Murray: “Congress must wake up to the crisis affecting our Native women, and recognize the federal government’s responsibility and role in ending it. That includes improving and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act”

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S FLOOR SPEECH HERE***

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined her Senate Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor to highlight the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls that has long plagued tribal communities throughout Washington state and the nation. Senator Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee and the highest-ranking woman in the Senate, shared headlines from Washington state news outlets detailing the pain and tragedy impacting Native women and families, and called on Congress to do more to end the crisis of violence impacting women and girls in Indian Country—including reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which Senate Republicans let lapse after refusing to call a vote on a version of the bill that passed the House earlier this year that improves and strengthens protections for indigenous communities. According to a recent report from the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Urban Health Institute, Washington state ranks second among states with the highest number of reported cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, with Seattle ranking first among major urban cities in the United States. A partner to Washington state tribes in the Senate and a longtime champion for VAWA, Senator Murray previously worked to successfully secure new protections for tribal communities when the law was reauthorized in 2013, and called on her Republican colleagues to listen to Native women and work with Democrats to reauthorize the seminal law, as they have in years past. 

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s floor speech:

“…[I]t’s not just Seattle—from the Yakama Nation, to Spokane, to Tacoma, the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women isn’t an urban problem or a rural problem, or an issue just for Western Washington or Eastern Washington. This is an alarming trend devastating communities every day throughout Washington state and across the country—one for which Native women and girls are paying the ultimate price.”

“I’m grateful for Native leaders and organizations like the Seattle Indian Health Board, who last November released a landmark new report—the first of its kind—on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women—collecting important data and insights, a major step toward removing a significant barrier that has burdened efforts to end the decades-long epidemic. But there’s much more we must do to keep Native women and girls safe and seek justice. And as important as it is to bring awareness to this devastating crisis, more than awareness—we need action.”

“Congress must wake up to the crisis affecting our Native women, and recognize the federal government’s responsibility and role in ending it.  That includes improving and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act—a critical law that for years has worked to help communities decrease assaults against women and girls, and that Republicans let lapse earlier this year…”

“I know there are champions for this issue on both sides of the aisle—members who have listened to the Native voices in their state,  and understand why we must equip tribal communities with the tools and resources they need to protect tribal members and hold others accountable when they cause harm or bring violence. There’s no excuse not to get this done—we’ve done it before, and I know we can do it again…[s]o now that VAWA has passed the House, know that I will keep pushing my Republican colleagues to get it over the finish line here in the Senate.”

Watch video of Senator Murray’s floor speech HERE.

Full text of Senator Murray’s floor speech below (as prepared for delivery):

“Thank you, M. President—and thank you to my good friend from New Mexico for organizing today’s effort on this important issue.

“I rise today to join my colleagues in shining a bright spotlight on a crisis that has brought terror and pain to tribal communities across my home state of Washington, and the nation, for far too long…

“It’s an alarm that has been sounding for generations—one that has impacted literally countless families, robbing them of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters…

“ ‘Family of missing Native woman demands answers in Wapato’…

“In Yakima County: ‘A year after her body was found, officials are now officially calling the death of this young woman a homicide’…

“…and in Toppenish: ‘16-year-old…disappeared after Christmas Eve in 1971. Her sister refuses to give up the search’…

“M. President, these are just a few of the headlines that have appeared in news outlets in Washington state—within just the last few months—highlighting the scope of the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in our communities.

“For too long, our nation has ignored or misclassified the terrible stories of violence against women and girls in tribal communities who have been reported missing or murdered at much higher rates than their non-Native counterparts—or worse, not reported at all.

“It’s a crisis that’s particularly salient in Washington state, which ranks second among states with the highest numbers of reported cases of missing and murdered Native women.

“Even worse, Seattle ranks number one among cities with the highest number of cases.

“But it’s not just Seattle—from the Yakama Nation, to Spokane, to Tacoma, the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women isn’t an urban problem or a rural problem, or an issue just for Western Washington or Eastern Washington…

“…this is an alarming trend devastating communities every day throughout Washington state and across the country—one for which Native women and girls are paying the ultimate price.

“Now, thanks to the determination of Native women who have spent years raising their voices to bring attention to this tragic pattern of injustice, we’re beginning to develop the tools and resources we need to combat this epidemic.

“I’m grateful for Native leaders and organizations like the Seattle Indian Health Board, who last November released a landmark new report—the first of its kind—on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women—collecting important data and insights, a major step toward removing a significant barrier that has burdened efforts to end the decades-long epidemic. 

“But there’s much more we must do to keep Native women and girls safe and seek justice. And as important as it is to bring awareness to this devastating crisis, more than awareness—we need action.

“Congress must wake up to the crisis affecting our Native women, and recognize the federal government’s responsibility and role in ending it.

“That includes improving and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act—a critical law that for years has worked to help communities decrease assaults against women and girls, and that Republicans let lapse earlier this year…

“Now M. President—this law has long-garnered bipartisan support…

“In fact, we were able to come together just six years ago to pass an even stronger version of the law that strengthened protections and resources for tribal communities.

“And I know there are champions for this issue on both sides of the aisle—members who have listened to the Native voices in their state,  and understand why we must equip tribal communities with the tools and resources they need to protect tribal members and hold others accountable when they cause harm or bring violence.

“There’s no excuse not to get this done—we’ve done it before, and I know we can do it again….

“So now that VAWA has passed the House, know that I will keep pushing my Republican colleagues to get it over the finish line here in the Senate. 

“In the meantime, I will continue lifting up the stories of Native women and girls—as well as tribal leaders and members…

“…and as a partner to Washington state’s tribal communities here in the Senate, know I will keep fighting to strengthen federal support for tribal priorities and listening to Native voices as we all work together to end the tragedy of this senseless epidemic.

“Thank you, M. President—I yield the floor.”