By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
San Diego County has more tribal governments than any other county in the nation. Since these communities are all located within the 75th Assembly District, tribal issues are very important to me, especially regarding their safety and prosperity.
With approximately 110 federally recognized tribes, California is home to more Native American and Alaska Native people than any other state. Four in five Native American and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, and one in 130 Native American children are likely to go missing every year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the murder rate for women living on the nation’s Indian reservations is ten times higher than the national average, making murder the third leading cause of death. Unfortunately, California has the nation’s fifth largest caseload of missing and murdered indigenous women.
I have served in the Legislature for over 10 years, and I find it unacceptable that we are still dealing with this crisis. Last year we took an important step by passing AB 1314, which created a new “Feather Alert” system, similar to existing Amber and Silver Alerts for missing children and seniors.
Approximately 26 of California’s tribal governments have established law enforcement agencies to maintain public safety on tribal lands, and 22 have established tribal courts, serving 40 different tribes. This session I am supporting AB 44 which will enhance the authority of tribal police to enforce state laws by providing access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, and AB 273, which requires social workers and others to immediately notify authorities when a child is absent from foster care, including notifications to tribes.
Passage of legislation such as AB 1314 last year, and hopefully, AB 44 and AB 273 this year, will help rein in this ongoing tragedy.