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Tester's State Of The Union Guest More Than Just A Spectator

Briana Lamb and Senator Jon Tester
Courtesy Senator Tester's office
Briana Lamb and Senator Jon Tester

Among those at the State of the Union address in Washington, DC last night was was a 29-year-old stay-at-home mother of two from Missoula. Briana Lamb is also an activist on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. She was Senator Jon Tester’s guest.

I got Lamb on the phone in Senator Tester’s office just a few minutes after she attended the State of the Union in the House chamber.

"It was really amazing," she said. "The only word I would have for it right now is: Wow. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime."

But Lamb was there as more than just a spectator. Senator Tester brought her as his one invited guest to represent Montanans who want Congress to do something about the high incidence of violence against indigenous women in Montana and the US.

"Personally I think that my attendance did bring a little bit of awareness tonight," she said. "I was able to ask some senators to suppor Savanna's Act, which will be re-introduced here in the Senate soon."

Savanna’s Act, named for a North Dakota Native woman murdered in 2017, is a bipartisan bill aimed at improving information sharing between tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and increasing data collection on missing persons throughout Indian Country.

Lamb, who is Gros Ventre from Ft. Belknap, talked about law enforcement problems in Indian Country at a roundtable Tester held in Missoula last June.

In December, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on which both of Montana’s senator sit, held a hearing about missing and murdered indigenous women.

Lamb says she’s glad the issue is getting more attention.

"As far as in the state of Montana, just in Senator Tester sharing that I was his guest, it has brought a lot of discussion, I would say, to the issue, in Montana as a whole," Lamb said. "And I think that mainstream Montana is becoming more aware of the issue. And it’s not just a reservation issue, and it’s not just a Native issue, it’s an everybody issue."

Lamb, who been an activist for year for action on the high rate of violence against Native women, praised both Tester and Senator Steve Daines for looking for solutions.

Senator Daines’ guest at the State of the Union was Jodi Moore, the widow of Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore, who was murdered in the line of duty in 2017.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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