A bill that takes a major step toward advancing the investigations and discovery of missing and murdered indigenous persons passed the Washington State Senate Friday and is on its way to the governor for his signature.

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1713.

“This measure takes the important step of creating two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol to increase trust between governmental organizations and native communities and to break the silence involved when an indigenous person goes missing,” said Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale.

Under the bill, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is directed to develop a best practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing persons reports on and off reservations.

“When someone becomes missing, all too often there hasn’t been a process to get help for families. Tribal members have reached out to tribal police, city and county officials, and the State Patrol, but no one could tell them what could be done,” said Mosbrucker. “The tribal liaisons will be there to help, and with a protocol in place, investigations can follow through to the completion of the case.”

The measure also requires the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to provide the WSP with government-to-government training.

Mosbrucker originally introduced legislation in 2018, after being contacted by Earth-Feather Sovereign, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who had been seeking help for more than a decade on the issue. House Bill 2951, which passed last year, brought the State Patrol together with federally recognized tribes, tribal law enforcement, urban Indian organizations and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to study and identify the issue of missing Native American women in Washington state and report recommendations to the Legislature. Mosbrucker said Sovereign has also been instrumental this year in inspiring House Bill 1713 to move forward.

“We didn’t want to wait to take action on those recommendations as the earlier bill prescribed. We know the issue and after meeting with tribes across the state last year, we learned what is needed to address this issue. We didn’t want to wait to take action, so we put those components in this year’s bill,” said Mosbrucker.

The measure passed the House unanimously on March 5. On Friday, it gained unanimous approval in the Senate and was sent to the governor for signature.

“It is time to bring awareness to this issue so the families of those missing can find their loved ones and get justice for those who have been murdered. We are talking about generations of Native people losing their loved ones and suffering in silence, while their young people wonder, ‘am I next?’ This must end,” added Mosbrucker.

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