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Legislation looks to address Montana Missing Indigenous Persons issue

Missing Jermain Charlo
Posted at 3:56 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 10:30:55-05

PABLO — Legislators in Helena are discussing three bills that spotlight Missing Murdered Indigenous People.

The measures have been drafted to allow the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Task Force to continue educating tribal communities -- have made their way to respective Senate committees for consideration.

“To develop a system where it works well for everybody. It makes law enforcement jobs easier; it puts the family at ease because they’re getting what they need,” observed CSKT Tribal Councilwoman Ellie Bundy. “They’re getting their questions answered. So, feel like it is really important not just for CSKT but across the board."

House Bill 98 would extend current grants for tribal communities while HB 35 and HB 36 propose extending the task force's term limits and offer additional grant money.

Bundy says these bills need to be pushed through the Senate committees in order to continue educating those in need about the crisis and to offer more financial assistance as soon as possible.

“People need to be trained they need to know about being trauma-informed. And you notice there's just so many things and we don't have that training. So, that's where this other piece could come in,” Bundy said.

Bundy also says that just having bills written into law is not enough.

“We need to keep those faces behind these stories whenever possible we need to say their names whenever possible and humanize it you know we can't forget that these are young girls who had hopes and dreams."

Bundy is hopeful for the future of tribal communities impacted by the MMIP crisis -- should the bills become law.

Data collected by MMIP Montana reporting shows Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing in the state.

Some of those disappearances include Jermain Charlo, who went missing from Missoula in June of 2018 and Ashley Loring Heavy Runner, last seen in June of 2017 on the Blackfeet reservation.