Two Aquinas High School students took action over the summer in support of a bill to create a “Feather Alert,” an emergency notification system that will help stop the ongoing crisis of violence against Native Americans, particularly women and children.
“We went to Sacramento and testified on how helpful the Feather Alert will be and how much of a positive impact it would be to the to the Native American community,” said Anabella Hernandez, who advocated for the Feather Alert along with fellow Aquinas student Raven Casas, both members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians tribe.
The Feather Alert bill, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 23, will alert the public when Native Americans are missing under suspicious circumstances, similar to an Amber Alert (which is for a missing or abducted child) or a Silver Alert (which is for a missing elderly, developmentally, or cognitively-impaired adult). The alert system is intended to help address the very high rates of missing or murdered indigenous women.
More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice. Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, human trafficking and murder, and become missing at much higher rates than people of other races.
“The rates of murdered and missing people in Native American communities is a shameful state and national tragedy that does not receive the scrutiny and attention it deserves,” said Assemblymember James Ramos, D-Highland, who authored the bill and is also a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indian tribe (the first and so far only California Native American elected to the state Legislature).
Hernandez would like to see people take more notice of the crisis of missing or murdered indigenous persons (MMIP). “I don’t think it is taken seriously because I don’t see it being talked about much on the media. I encourage you and others to spread more information on this matter ... it needs to be talked about so more so people are aware of it,” she said.