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Blackfeet Community College Tapped To Start Work On Missing Indigenous Persons Database

Ashley Loring Heavy Runner went missing on the Blackfeet Reservation in 2017.

The state Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force has awarded its first $25,000 grant to Blackfeet Community College to develop what will be the first piece in a statewide tribal network tracking missing Native American persons.

Drew Landry is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Agent working at the college and is heading up the local effort. He says the college is working with the Montana Department of Justice to hash out details.

"We’re figuring out what are the criteria that need to be reported immediately, how to get those to law enforcement, and then once they’re confirmed missing, that we’re able to get those onto social media. That’s what we’re planning to do right now."

Landry says the college will use a website he built with students about two years ago drawing attention to the Missing and Murdered Persons issue as well as the disappearance of Ashley Loring Heavy Runner, who went missing on the Blackfeet Reservation in 2017.

Landry hopes to use grant dollars to hire a staff member who will help family members through the reporting process.

The system is expected to be up and running sometime this summer.

Building an alternative statewide reporting network is part of the state task force’s mandate. The first grant comes months later than originally anticipated. The task force extended the deadline to apply for the grant in December after it received no applications. Some concern on the task force was raised about whether the dollar amount was adequate.

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