SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will create a new alert system to find missing Indigenous people in the state.

Similar to an Amber Alert, the Feather Alert system will help search efforts for a Native person who has been reported missing under suspicious circumstances.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1314 was drafted by Assemblymember James C. Ramos to address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native people across the country.

Under the new bill, local law enforcement agencies are now able to ask the California Highway Patrol to activate an emergency Feather Alert.

“Today’s measures continue to move these efforts forward, including a new emergency alert system that will provide us with additional critical tools needed to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People,” said Newsom while signing the bill in Sacramento.

The state will also be investing $12 million over three years to fund tribally led programs to help address the crisis of Indigenous people who are reported missing or murdered on tribal lands. 

In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported that there were 5,712 reports of missing Native women and girls throughout the country. Out of those reports, only 116 cases were logged in the federal missing persons database, known as NamUs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death for Native women, and that rates of violence on reservations can be up to 10 times higher than the national average.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) estimates there are 4,200 missing and murder cases of Native people that have gone unsolved. However, officials said is difficult to find an accurate count of how many Native women have been reported missing or murdered, as they are often misclassified as Hispanic, Asian, or other racial categories on missing-person reports.

In California, there are 700,000 Indigenous people, which is the largest Native population in the country.