Montana Public Radio

Missing and murdered Indigenous people

Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy (D) Crow Agency
Montana Legislature

The fate of two bills that could change the way Montana investigates and studies missing persons, especially in cases involving indigenous people, have been chained together in the political shuffle of the legislative session.

Senate lawmakers Tuesday restored previously cut funding for the bill known as Hanna’s Act, named for a woman murdered in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

A sign from a Jan. 9, 2019 missing and murdered Indigenous women vigil in Missoula.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Proponents of a proposed Montana bill meant to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women said Monday they now believe that it has been amended to become toothless.

As originally drafted, Hanna’s Act would have directed the state Department of Justice to hire a missing persons specialist to coordinate with local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement on cases. The idea being to improve response times by smoothing over jurisdictional issues.

It's been a busy week at the Montana Legislature. Medicaid expansion and a bill to help NorthWestern Energy acquire more coal are still alive; A bill to fund preschool education is killed; And a bill to help find missing and murdered Native American women is passed, then killed, then revived. Learn more now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

A piece of legislation intended to aid the investigation of missing indigenous people stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, but supporters aren’t giving up just yet.

Marita Growing Thunder (right) and an un-named person walking across the Flathead Reservation to raise awareness of missing and murdered indiginous women, March 28, 2019.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

Advocates of missing and murdered indigenous women set off on a four-day trek in northwest Montana Thursday to raise awareness for the disproportionate rates of violence against Native women and girls. 

On asphalt and mud, grass and gravel, they walk.

People share their stories and call for action on behalf of their missing loved-ones during a Jan. 19 vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women in Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Advocates for missing and murdered indigenous women will walk the length of the Flathead Reservation starting Thursday, March 28.

It’s the third year of the walk and this time it’s in honor of Jermain Charlo, who’s been missing for more than nine months.

Funding For Missing Persons Bill Remains In Limbo

Mar 12, 2019
A sign from a Jan. 9, 2019 missing and murdered Indigenous women vigil in Missoula.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Montana lawmakers are no closer to agreeing on who should fund a missing persons bill after a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill-21, or “Hanna’s Act” is named for a Northern Cheyenne woman who was murdered in 2013. The bill would create a position in the Montana Department of Justice to investigate every missing persons case across the state, in an attempt to bridge gaps in communication and jurisdiction between state, tribal and federal agencies.

A sign from a Jan. 9, 2019 missing and murdered Indigenous women vigil in Missoula.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Human remains found last year on northwestern Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation do not belong to a 20-year-old woman missing for almost two years.

The FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia announced Friday that its analysis of the remains found December 13 are not those of Ashley Loring HeavyRunner who disappeared in June of 2017.

The President of the Fort Belknap Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes Andrew Werk Jr. delivered the State of Tribal Nations Address, in the House chamber on Thurs., Feb. 7. 2019.
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

Native American leaders asked Montana lawmakers Thursday for help passing legislation important to tribes across the state. 

The President of the Fort Belknap Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes Andrew Werk Jr. delivered the State of Tribal Nations Address in the House chamber Thursday.

CSKT Policy Analyst Jami Pluff is spearheading the formation of a work group to address missing and murdered indigenous women and girls on the Flathead Reservation. Jan. 7, 2019.
Nicky Ouellet / MTPR

As Congress and Montana lawmakers consider laws to address high rates of missing and murdered Native American women and girls, people in Indian Country have a question for the law enforcement officers and government officials tasked with protecting them.

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