HELENA - May 5 marks the National Day of Awareness for Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women.
Indigenous people make up approximately 7% of Montana's population but account for more than 26% of missing person cases and throughout the country, and the Indigenous women murder rate is ten times the national average.
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Helena Indian Alliance hopes to bring attention to the MMIP crisis by displaying handmade t-dresses.
"We realize there's a need for education in our community and to bring light to murdered and missing indigenous people in Montana. It's still a huge crisis, and a lot of people don't understand and are aware of how much it impacts Indian country," said Helena Indian Alliance Youth Coordinator Samantha Vulles.
Vulles says the number of Indigenous women going missing is a crisis, and it has deep ties with her.
"For me personally, it impacts me. I've had a niece murdered in the last couple of years, and I know a lot of native women that are missing, and so it's impactful to me as well as just knowing how many people out there don't understand how much of a crisis it is in our state," said Vulles.
According to the Montana Department of Justice, Indigenous women, men, and children in Montana are four times as likely to go missing, and 84% of Indigenous women have experienced physical violence.
At the end of 2019, 110 people were listed as active missing persons, one-third were Indigenous people.
For Rachel Twoteeth-Pichardo, she wanted to model the display on the building after the REDress Project created by Jaime Black, a Métis artist who helped create the movement to raise awareness about the 1000 missing indigenous women in Canada.
"She started the red dress movement to bring awareness to the MMIW and the Missing Murdered Indigenous women," said Twoteeth-Pichardo.
Twoteeth-Pichardo hopes Montana’s elected leaders will continue to focus on this issue.
"We just want to make sure that we're represented and that we're getting the proper respect as well, like in legislative, and to let us know that, like we're still a people, we still have our rights," said Twoteeth-Pichardo.
Vulles and Twoteeth-Pichardo welcome the public to learn more about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People crisis.
"We're always open to coming in and sharing and educating people and just spreading the awareness that way just by spreading the education of it," said Vulles.
You can find more information about MMIP here.
You can help Indigenous families that have lost loved ones due to the MMIP crisis here.