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California considers ‘Feather Alert’ for indigenous missing

A California lawmaker is proposing a “Feather Alert” that would notify the public when indigenous people go missing under certain circumstances. Assembly member James C. Ramos said the alert would be activated through California’s AMBER Alert system and would be similar to the state’s Endangered Missing Advisory.

“This bill brings further attention and effort to end violence on tribal lands and across the state,” Ramos said.

The bill is co-sponsored by the Yurok, California’s largest tribe, in Northern California. On July 1, 2022, a bill in Washington State created the first statewide emergency alert system for missing indigenous people. Similarly, Colorado passed a bill in June that created the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, tasked with creating an indigenous alert system.

“It is a top priority for us to make change and not just talk about it; this creates action through legislation,” Yurok Tribal Chairman Joe James told The Press Democrat.

According to the Sovereign Bodies Institute and Yurok Tribal Court, Northern California has 107 missing and murdered indigenous women. In 2016, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) tracked more than 5,700 missing indigenous women and girls – but according to the Urban Indian Health Institute, only 116 were reported in U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

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Canadian indigenous organization issues first alert for missing woman and son

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) issued a missing person alert after an indigenous woman and her 7-year-old son went missing July 24, 2022, in Saskatchewan, Canada. Both were found in Oregon August 5. Dawn Walker is now facing charges of parental abduction and public mischief.

Several First Nation women, however, say Walker was fleeing from domestic violence. “Until you walk the mile in the shoes of women who have to protect their children or themselves, you have no room to talk,” said Mary Culbertson, Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan. The FSIN declined to comment.

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Canada public safety minister addresses AMBER Alerts for tribal members

Canadian Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino said more dialogue is needed to find out if enough is being done when a First Nation member goes missing.

Tribal leaders have been critical after AMBER Alerts were not issued in two cases involving indigenous children. “At a minimum, there should be dialogue about whether the criteria [for AMBER Alerts] are providing as much support as is needed in those very early and fragile moments, when every minute can make a difference,” he said.

Mendicino has been meeting with indigenous political and law enforcement leaders about efforts to protect First Nation members.