MISSOULA — Nearly 200 people came together on the Oval of the University of Montana Wednesday night, gathering in solidarity for the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.
Across the country, May 5 is recognized as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and raising awareness on this crisis in Missoula was Project Beacon and a crowd of supporters.
"As we are Montana, we have 13 tribes represented here. We have seven reservations. We have a strong sense of who we are and our culture in the United States. Montana is very rich with our Indigenous ways of knowing," explained Project Beacon director Lauren Small Rodriguez.
She hoped to bring an education piece to the MMIW event so Native Women shared the stories and the statistics of the stark reality they face as Montana is just second in the nation for cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous people.
"And so I also encourage each person who, who wants to know more about...Indigenous health disparity issues. I encourage them to; to know about us to know who are the tribes here in Montana, to identify where the reservations are, and to see a reservation," Rodriguez said.
Events like the one at UM also offer a feeling of hope for those directly impacted by MMIW -- including people like Velenda Morigeau who is the aunt of missing woman Jermain Charlo.
"This is something we wouldn’t wish on anybody," Morigeau told MTN News. "But coming together and making people aware of what's happening is so important."
The evening included stories from MMIW family members, a blessing from a tribal elder of the CSKT, music, fellowship, and an update on the CKST Tribal Community Response Plan.
The night concluded with a candlelight vigil -- and one final message rang loud and clear. "To all the women out there who are missing, will never stop fighting for justice for you," Morigeau said.