GREAT FALLS - Blackfeet Community College (BCC), in partnership with Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force, announced on Thursday the launch of a new Missing Indigenous Persons reporting website to streamline reporting efforts to help find missing people.
A news release from BCC says the school received a $25,000 grant from the Montana Department of Justice that was allocated in the 2019 Montana Senate Bill 312, the Looping in Native Communities (LINC) Act. The law required a $25,000 match from the college; AT&T provided a $25,000 donation for the entire match. Funding from the LINC Act will allow for a network of tribal communities to share missing persons data and allow for a safe, easily accessible online reporting portal.
The website allows families and friends to complete a Contact Information Form about the missing person online. In the past, missing persons’ loved ones have expressed reluctance to report missing individuals directly to law enforcement. The BCC reporting system will serve as the go-between for those reporting and all levels of law enforcement. Once the form is submitted on the website, an automatic notice will be sent to local tribal law enforcement.
Volunteers from BCC will provide support to the missing person’s family while working with law enforcement. All data collected through the website will be shared with appropriate law enforcement entities including tribal, county, state, and federal. The initial rollout of the website will be within the Browning area with remaining tribal communities in Montana added within the next year. Additional information about missing persons, simultaneous posting to social media, and the ability to submit an anonymous tip about a missing person will also be available through the website.
The website states the mission is simple: "We want to make it easy to report missing persons cases for residents of the Blackfeet Nation." Click here to visit the website at mmipmt.com.
“I think as a community, we're stepping forward and we're trying to provide a way for us to collect information so that we can resolve these cases,” said Karla Bird, president of Blackfeet Community College. “More importantly, hopefully, help save lives, help bring closure to families, and really bring the sense of peace to our community."
“Students and staff at Blackfeet Community College began this effort years ago,” said Drew Landry, the Missing Indigenous Persons/LINC grant coordinator at Blackfeet Community College. “We built a website and launched an online petition that garnered 55,000 signatures seeking justice for former student Ashley Loring HeavyRunner. This grant gives us the opportunity to move from awareness to helping our community with the process of reporting missing loved ones. The website, reporting portal and database are important tools that encourage communication between the public and law enforcement. We are also working with community members to address the root causes of the missing and murdered epidemic in Indian Country, while collectively working together to address any jurisdictional or legal loopholes that will help solve cases.”
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