Round Valley had its voice heard yesterday in the California state capitol declaring the tribe’s support for Assembly Bill 1314 establishing the “Feather Alert” notification system. Similar to the Amber Alert system, “Feather Alerts” would be a new tool to address Indian Country’s missing and murdered people. If a tribal member goes missing under suspicious circumstances, “Feather Alerts” would quickly disseminate vital information to the public and media.
Round Valley Tribal Councilman Lewis Whipple stood in front of state legislators in the Senate Chambers and expressed the Tribal Council’s full-fledged support for the “Feather Alert” notification system.
Ronnie Hostler, the grandfather of Round Valley’s Khadijah Britton, stood alongside his wife Lydia and daughter Connie recounting the four years of failed searches and investigations into Khadijah’s 2018 disappearance. So impassioned to tell his family’s story of their missing Khadijah, Hostler spoke beyond the allotted amount and his microphone was cut.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos of California’s 40th district, the first Native American elected to the legislative body, brought the bill forward. On May 2, Ramos gathered with native leaders and lawmakers in Sacramento to consider solutions to what is described as an epidemic in Native American communities. The “Feather Alert” system was a product of that collaboration.
Yesterday, standing alongside tribal leaders from across the state, James C. Ramos introduced Assembly Bill 1314, describing the notification system as “a new tool for fighting the silent epidemic of violence against Native people, and especially our women and girls.”
He told the crowd tribal leaders can feel the momentum building as more become aware that “the rate of murdered and missing people in Native American communities is a shameful state and national tragedy.”
During the press conference, Assemblyman Ramos gave recognition to Round Valley tribes and the loss of Khadijah Britton, the case that galvanized the MMIW movement in Mendocino County. He suggested that if the “Feather Alert” had been in place when she was taken at gunpoint four years ago, Khadijah could possibly have been found.
AB 1314 is a bipartisan effort with Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and Republican Assemblyman Devon Mathias joining Assemblyman Ramos as joint authors. The federally recognized tribe Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and their sovereign tribal government are sponsoring the bill.
The State of Washington was the first in the union to create an alert system specific to indigenous peoples signed by Governor Jay Inslee in late March 2020. Colorado legislators are currently considering proposals to implement a similar notification system.
Data from the Department of Justice shows the Amber Alert system has proven a vital tool in searching for missing children. As of May 1, 2022, 1,114 children have been recovered using the system. In 2020 alone, two-hundred Amber Alerts were issued resulting in the recovery of 194 children. Applying a similar system to missing indigenous peoples could prove invaluable, native tribes argue.
California’s North Coast is home to dozens of tribes and their sovereign land meaning our communities are well acquainted with the epidemic of missing and murdered peoples. The Sovereign Bodies Institute, a research outfit dedicated to documenting the MMIW epidemic, has found 105 cases of missing and murdered women in Northern California alone.
For an overview of some of the high-profile cases of missing and murdered women, check out our article here.