Rep. Gina Mosbrucker has introduced bipartisan legislation in her ongoing effort to help tribal and law enforcement authorities work together to solve cases involving missing and murdered indigenous persons.
For five years, Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, has worked on the issue with Colville Confederated Tribe member Earth-Feather Sovereign and many others, first passing House Bill 2951Â in 2018. The measure created a study to increase state resources for reporting and identifying missing Native American women throughout Washington state.
In 2019, the Legislature passed and the governor signed Mosbrucker’s House Bill 1713, a landmark measure that established two tribal liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to build relationships between governmental organizations and native communities. It also set up a best practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing indigenous people.
On Monday, Mosbrucker introduced the long-awaited House Bill 1571.
“The third chapter of this journey is, how do we bring them home? We now know there are many missing and murdered indigenous people. The third piece of this mystery addresses how to bring them home,” said Mosbrucker.
Mosbrucker says the bill consists of several components.
“It would allow tribal members to pray over a deceased indigenous person without compromising the scene before an autopsy is conducted. Law enforcement would work with them to allow the ceremonies to be performed in accordance with tribal tradition. It is important to respect their tribal cultures,” said Mosbrucker.
The measure would also require the Washington state jail booking system to be checked during investigations seeking missing indigenous persons. In addition, it also puts in place a public alert system known as the “Red Thunder Alert.”
“This is a system much like the Amber Alert or the Silver Alert. When a tribal member is missing, the information would go immediately on the highway reader boards across the state,” said Mosbrucker.
“In addition, this bill would have the tribes create a recognizable symbol with a phone number that could be placed in truck stops, hotels and other places where trafficked people may see it and know help is available,” added Mosbrucker.
The final component of the bill would create a pilot program receiving center that would take in as many as 50 trafficked victims.
“Sadly, some of these tribal families just don’t have the resources to be able to help their loved ones if they’ve been in horrific situations, such as prostitution or drug crimes. They also don’t have the skill set to help these victims heal their addiction or provide mental health counseling they need,” noted Mosbrucker. “This program would bring these victims to a facility to provide temporary shelter and connect them to counseling, medical assistance and other services that help them get their lives back.”
Mosbrucker said she introduced the legislation late in the 2021 session in order to begin the dialogue and hold a series of listening sessions.
“This bill is meant for the 2022 session. I introduced it now so that we can use the next eight months to work on this legislation with the tribes, families, law enforcement and experts that will help to perfect it,” she noted.
“When this journey began in 2017, I made a promise to a beautiful Yakama Nation elder. She told me I have a great responsibility on my shoulders — that government says it will help, but seldom does. She asked me not to stop until we bring them home,” said Mosbrucker. “This is my attempt to do just that. Nothing worth fixing is ever easy. I will not give up until we can find and bring them home.”
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Washington State House Republicans