ST. IGNATIUS — One hometown hero on the Flathead Reservation is helping students have a voice on an issue that's close to home.
Thanks to the creativity and leadership of Vincent Bird-Webster, a social media campaign highlighting the MMIP crisis is taking off.
“I just really just thought what can I do to make a difference to help families," Bird-Webster told MTN News.
Just before basketball practice at St. Ignatius High School, home of the Bulldogs, several kids are warming up — and also filming the latest campaign video.
Cedrick McDonald, a junior at St. Ignatius, told MTN News he chose to help and be featured in the next video. "Everybody watches it and like they'll catch on to it and it'll give them ideas too to spread awareness for MMIP."
“I thought it was super cool to bring attention to it and something we need," Junior Kooper Page agreed.
Bird-Webster — who is a hip-hop artist and middle school basketball coach from Ronan — puts his time into advocating for MMIP.
Over the summer, he helped raise money for families affected by working with Shadow Devereaux to organize a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
“I just kind of have a passion to bring as much awareness to the subject. I’m a dad, I have a daughter who’s almost four," Bird-Webster explained, "I just can't imagine what families go through when they lose a family member.”
The first video featuring athletes at Ronan High School and music from Chief Cliff Drum Group debuted last month.
“At least 100 people shared it, you know, to their stories [on Instagram]" Bird-Webster said "I think it's almost 5,000 views now."
The next video in the social media campaign series will feature basketball and St. Ignatius High School athletes.
“Every kid I reached out to has been excited to do this. They've been strong in front of the camera," Bird-Webster said.
Coach Stuart Grant — the boys basketball coach at St. Ignatius — is fully behind the effort.
“It makes students more aware of what's going on socially. I think it's important to know what's going on in the world and what's going on here at home," Grant said.
And for the students involved, it gives them a chance to work towards justice for those in their community that are gone.
“To get the justice for like girls that they deserve. Not just like other females, like all. Especially Indigenous ones," Page said.
“It feels nice...showing an example to other people," McDonald said.
And sports, well it’s the perfect way to get the message out and amplify student voices.
“You know sports is a big part of life on reservations. So the whole gym’s packed. If it’s state [championship], the whole town comes out to watch," Bird-Webster explained.
“I think the togetherness, not just being together on the court, but also being together off the court and being able to speak on topics that aren't always comfortable," Grant said.
Bird-Webster said he is motivated to shine a light on something he believes is misunderstood.
“I want non-Native American people to, you know, kind of see the truth about things that go on reservations...I want to bring as much light to it as possible,” Bird-Webster said.
The plan is to continue making these social media videos in the coming months at other surrounding high schools.