The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the FBI have announced the completion of the nation’s first Tribal Community Response Plan.
“Murdered Indigenous people is a harsh reality that native people face today unfortunately no tribal nation has gone untouched by this crisis." said CSKT Council Chairwoman Shelly Fyant.
That is especially clear in the Big Sky State where, according to the Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse, 48 of the 166 people missing in Montana are identified as Indigenous.
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But now this crisis has a plan as CSKT leaders announced the completion of their Tribal Community Response Plan for Missing or Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP). Not only is it the first of its kind focusing on MMIP, but it will be used nationwide by tribal communities.
“The public outcry over this issue eventually generated enough tension in the highest levels of government in Congress and with the attorney general to direct in the US Attorney Offices to consult with tribes and to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for responding to the scene and murdered indigenous person cases,” said acting U.S. Attorney General Leif Johnson.
The plan revolves around the response to a missing person. Once the policy is complete, it will be implemented for tribal and non-tribal members and how agencies can help one another.
“We see these guidelines as a way of helping officers and officials in the tribe respond on a moment's notice when the call first comes in," said Johnson.
What's starting from the ground up here in Montana will soon take flight across the United States, "we will learn and implement from the work that the good people here have done it can be utilized nationwide," said FBI Assistant Director Terry Wade.
But the plan doesn't just address the issues in law enforcement response. It also looks to help the families of missing and murdered Indigenous people, whose questions often go without an answer. A new position under the plan hopes to alleviate that stress.
“This missing persons liaison position we feel is extremely important to keep that family in the loop it frees up our missing persons investigator to focus solely on the investigation," said CSKT Tribal Council representative Elly Bundy.
Bundy says this plan challenges agencies to do more, "I challenge law enforcement agencies to step to the plate being active player realize how critical you are to the success of these efforts ."
But for Bundy, the plan adds one of the most critical components of all -- it assists communities and law enforcement agencies to remember those who are missing or have been murdered and it serves as a guideline to the fight for justice.
“It's about always remembering why we make the commitment every day to do the work. And who we make that commitment for is for those who are missing, those who have been murdered, and for their families who will forever hurt,” said Bundy.
The Missing Murdered Indigenous Persons Response Plan will be adopted by the Rocky Boy Chippewa Cree Reservation and will also help other tribal communities form their own response plan.