Editor’s note: This is the final story in a three-part series about Ida’s Law, which establishes a liaison to work with law enforcement agencies and families to solve Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons cases throughout Oklahoma. The series explores Ida Beard’s story, legislation history and more.
District 87 Rep. Collin Walke said Ida’s Law will help Native American families who have someone missing like Ida Beard, a Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member, who has been missing since 2015.
“These families deserve and want justice,” Walke said. “They need closure. The inability to know what happened to their loved ones prevents either one of those things from happening.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Ida’s Law April 20.
The legislation was proposed by District 93 Rep. Mickey Dollens in 2020. It was passed inside the House with 94 representatives approving the legislation March 3, 2020.
The legislation stalled in the Senate, due to the pandemic, until this year’s legislative session with District 45 Sen. Paul Rosino being the principal author of it within the Senate.
Walke said he was asked by tribal representatives to author the legislation inside the House to help Native Americans in Oklahoma.
“I said, ‘Absolutely’ to make sure it got past the finish line,” Walke said.
While legislators were successful in getting the bill to Stitt, it did not originate with them.
“I don’t take credit for creating Ida’s Law,” Rosino said. “… LaRenda (Morgan) is the one who pushed it. She’s the one who worked very hard. She’s worked on it for several years and I just had the pleasure of running it and getting it passed.”
Morgan, a Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member and Beard’s cousin, started working on the legislation in 2019.
Rosino said he immediately jumped onboard whenever he listened to Morgan and heard more about his own district.
“When it was brought to me initially, I was like, ‘Should this be a tribal member?’” Rosino said. “Then when I found I had constituents of my own in my district missing, then talking and speaking with LaRenda and her passion about this, I said, ‘Why not me?’”
Walke said the lack of data about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons is a shame.
“Hopefully through the passage of this law, a positive outcome will at least be closure for these families,” Walke said.
Coordination between law enforcement offices was also identified as a problem.
“I’m not Native American but it does not matter to me,” Rosino said. “It was about coordination. You have the tribes, the FBI, local municipal law enforcement, (the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations) … they just weren’t working well together.”
The senator hopes to bring more attention to MMIP. He added that the Cheyenne and Arapaho was not the only tribe to want this legislation.
Solving MMIP cases is an important issue within many Native American communities, Walke said. He added that having an Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons will be beneficial in resolving those cases.
“I know communication is vital to solving problems,” Walke said. “Hopefully this will cut the red-tape between jurisdictional fights and allow actual progress to be made on these cases.”
The Office of Liaison for MMIP will be within OSBI.
Rosino said funding for the coordinator will come from grants that he and Morgan are finding within Operation Lady Justice. Former President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13898 formed the task force to address MMIP in the U.S. Nov. 26, 2019.
OSBI, Rosino and Morgan are currently working to determine how to secure funding for the new office.
“There’s money there, it’s just figuring out the avenue of how to pull it down,” Rosino said.
Although, the senator noted he isn’t concerned about the funding because the law will not go into effect until Nov. 1.