The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are participating in a national pilot project to improve coordination between agencies investigating missing and murdered Indigenous persons cases.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently developed protocols for federal, tribal and state law enforcement to work together more efficiently, which the CSKT will adapt into a Tribal Community Response plan that’s specific to the Flathead.
Craige Couture, the CSKT police chief, says this plan will help when investigations cross jurisdictional lines.
"It gives us each a piece of this puzzle to put together, where we have input on how we're going to do this. So, when we come together, it’s going to be seamless for the handoff on who's going to be the lead jurisdiction, if it goes into multiple jurisdictions, who follows up on that. It gives us a better opportunity to solve these cases and to bring some of these people home," Couture says.
CSKT Chairwoman Shelly Fyant says the tribal council met with federal, state and tribal agencies on Dec. 1 to start adapting the DOJ’s protocols to fit the community.
Fyant says the CSKT were motivated to participate after one of their own, Jermain Charlo, went missing in 2018 and has yet to be found.
"So, we're very excited to roll up our sleeves next week and start working on these guides. And these guides are designed to be versatile enough to fit into each individual tribal community," Fyant says.
After working with the CSKT in the coming weeks, the DOJ plans to go through the same process with other Montana tribes.