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Bill to create first-of-its-kind missing Indigenous persons alert passes WA senate

If passed, the alert system would be similar to how a Silver Alert works for vulnerable adults.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill creating an alert system for missing indigenous women and people within Washington passed the state Senate. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Debra Lekanoff from Skagit County, would create an early alert system that would distribute information about the missing person, similar to a Silver Alert. 

"This isn't just an Indian issue. This is a Washington state crisis and Washington state is better than that," Lekanoff told KING 5.

When a missing indigenous person alert is activated, details about the missing person, including pictures and biographical information, would be broadcast on highway message signs, through press releases to local and regional media and through bulletins to different state and tribal law enforcement agencies. 

Indigenous women and people go missing more than four times than white women, according to research conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle.

A January news release from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said this would be the first alert system designed specifically for missing and murdered Indigenous women and people in the country. 

The news release noted that indigenous women and people go missing and are murdered at rates higher than any other ethnic group in the United States.

Ferguson's office worked with Lekanoff on the legislation.

"We're going to make sure that any woman who's screaming for help, that alert system says 'help me,'" Lekanoff said. 

The bill passed unanimously in the state Senate on Thursday. It will go back to the state House for a procedural vote and is expected to land on the governor's desk by next week.


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