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Billings group raising awareness for missing or murdered indigenous men

Joey Little 8.jpg
Posted at 6:01 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-05 20:01:51-04

BILLINGS — Of the numerous missing or murdered indigenous people every year, the majority are women, and those cases tend to get the most attention, but a 2021 study showed that men actually made up about a third of that population.

And in 2022, Joey Little of Billings was one of them.

Little was found stabbed to death in his Billings apartment last December. His killer has not been arrested.

Little's family is still pressing for answers, hoping events like the Food for the Soul gathering Friday at South Park in Billings in his honor will help.

"He would help out whenever he could. He was just like that. So, I’m just helping because he always did," said Maurice Little Jr., Joey Little's brother, on Friday.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Native Americans face murder rates more than 10 times higher than the national average.

And data shows Indigenous men are more likely to be victims of homicide than Indigenous women.

"Men are impacted just as frequently, if not more so, than women. It's just the types of homicides that takes place. Generally with Indigenous men, it is retaliatory violence or some kind of vigilante justice on the streets. There's different reasons why men get murdered as opposed to women," said Charlene Sleeper, MMIP grassroots organizer, on Friday.

While the ways men and women experience violence may differ, advocates say the root causes are often the same.

"A lot of times, men deal with the toxic masculinity in our culture where they're expected to solve their own problems and not reach out for help. So, I feel like that contributes to it too," added Sleeper.

In Billings, Wamnee Ereaux helped organize the first Walk for Life campaign Friday, designed to bring awareness to mental health issues in Native communities.

"My sister, her son went missing and he was gone for about four days before they found his body... When you suffer, we suffer, everybody suffers, your family will suffer and the community. And you can’t heal a community if you’re struggling internally," said Eureax on Friday.

It’s a complex problem impacting hundreds of native families in Montana and both men and women alike.

Men like Joey Little.

"Just to get a little bit more info out there that it does happen to males. Not just only females. It happens to males also," said Little Jr.