For the second time in a week, a South Dakota legislative committee is unanimously passing a bill that directs state law enforcement to collect data on missing and murdered indigenous people.
Supporters say it’s a step in addressing crimes that are often unreported.
Annita Lucchesi reads a list of names that belong to missing native women from South Dakota.
Lucchesi is Southern Cheyenne and the founder the Sovereign Bodies Institute, which is a database cataloging cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. She’s worked on the database for four years.
Lucchesi says there are several barriers when gathering data on these cases. She says law enforcement sometimes doesn’t log a victim’s race, and default to ‘white.’
“It’s really a struggle,” Lucchesi says. “Beyond accessing law enforcement data, there’s quite a number of cases that never make it into that data because they’re misclassified or unreported. We do data collection by any means necessary.”
It’s the second bill passed by a state legislative committee—one in the Senate and one in the House. There are technicalities that are different between the two bills. Legislative leaders in the House say they hope to combine the language of both bills.
Democratic State Representative Peri Pourier is Oglala Lakota. She says a lot of work went into the bill.
“I really appreciate the support the committee has shown,” Pourier says. “That this issue is serious and that is a legitimate concern and that we will move together in solving these life and death scenarios.”
The bills direct the department of Criminal Investigation, which falls under the Attorney General’s office, to collect data and share information on missing and murdered indigenous people with other law enforcement—tribal and non-tribal, as well as local and federal agencies.