Eighty-four percent of Indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetime and Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing in the state of Montana, according to data from Blackfeet Community College (BCC), which recently launched the website MMIP Montana to track missing and murdered Indigenous persons (MMIP) in their state.
As the Flathead Beacon reported:
It’s the latest effort aimed at battling the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people in the United States, where women in particular go missing and are murdered at an alarmingly high rate, with more than 80 percent of Native American women experiencing violence. On some reservations, Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average, and even though tribal members constitute just 7% of Montana’s population, the state law enforcement identifies 26% of missing persons as Native American, which may be a low estimate.
Working in conjunction with Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force, MMIP Montana was the result of a $25,000 grant from the Montana Department of Justice, with the goal “to make it easy to report missing person cases for residents of the Blackfeet Nation” according to the website.
“This grant gives us the opportunity to move from awareness to helping our community with the process of reporting missing loved ones,” Drew Landry, BCC’s grant coordinator, told Flathead Beacon. “The website, reporting portal and database are important tools that encourage communication between the public and law enforcement.”
The project, which was created by BCC staff and students, was inspired by the ongoing search for Ashley HeavyRunner, a 20-year-old student who went missing from the Blackfeet Nation reservation in June 2017. HeavyRunner’s case broke open the fact that countless more women had vanished and remained missing, and that people weren’t reporting these crimes out of frustration that so many were unsolved, according to the site.
Montana State Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, told the Flathead Beacon that this new website “is a large step in the right direction.”
So how does it work?
“The BCC reporting system will serve as a digital liaison between the reporting individuals 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,” writes the Flathead Beacon.
To learn how to get involved or volunteer in MMIP work, visit BCC’s site here.