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Community Listening Sessions

MMIP Task Force members and Montana Department of Justice staff held community listening sessions to get feedback on missing Indigenous persons and families’ experiences within their tribal community.

Four general questions were presented to each community:

  1. What do you see as barriers to reporting missing persons in your area?
  2. What do you see as successes to reporting missing persons in your area?
  3. What are the most significant issues that lead to people going missing?
  4. Do tribal support services collaborate well with law enforcement?

Date and Locations:

  • July 16, 2020 – Harlem Public Library
  • March 12, 2020 – Helena Indian Alliance
  • February 6, 2020 – Billings City College
  • January 22, 2020 – Missoula Urban Indian Center/Payne Center
  • January 15, 2020 – Flathead Reservation – Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes
  • December 5, 2019 – Great Falls – Little Shell Chippewa Tribe
  • December 3, 2019 – Blackfeet Nation – Blackfeet Tribe
  • November 20, 2019 – Lame Deer – Northern Cheyenne Tribe
  • November 12, 2019 – Crow Agency – Crow Tribe
  • October 15, 2019 – Crow Agency – Crow Tribe

Barriers to Reporting – Responses

  • Not sure if there’s a waiting period before it’s ok to report
  • Don’t know who to call to report
  • Report to law enforcement may not be taken seriously: “they’re out partying” or kids are “looking for attention”
  • Missing person reports are too long to fill out; may not be able to finish forms with all the required information; some law enforcement won’t begin until the forms are complete
  • There aren’t enough law enforcement officers to respond on the larger reservations
  • Lack of street signs and addresses makes it difficult for officers new to the area
  • Lack of trust in law enforcement; some people fear reporting to law enforcement because of active warrants, bias, or stigma
  • When families do report, they don’t get regular updates on the case; in long-term missing cases families don’t know if their case is still being worked
  • Families feel law enforcement needs training on mandatory reporting protocol and response
  • Families feel like there’s no one to advocate for them or act as a liaison to explain the process
  • Families feel there’s no accountability for law enforcement agencies who don’t take reports, when a missing person is found deceased, or when families are unsatisfied with the case and its outcomes

Successes in Local Areas – Responses

  • Law enforcement seems to be stepping up in response in some communities
  • Domestic violence programs are gaining awareness
  • Local law enforcement is looped in with Disaster and Emergency Services
  • Police are out and about building relationships with community members
  • Sharing information on Facebook – gets people involved quickly
  • Search and rescue groups are being created in communities

Issues – Responses

  • Not enough law enforcement to respond in a timely manner
  • Lack of manpower and resources
  • Poverty, depression, anger, hatred, lack of food, discrimination against their own
  • Traditional values no longer meaningful to younger generation
  • Community members need to be educated to know how to work with law enforcement that has jurisdiction
  • Everyone needs to know how different systems (social services; schools; mental health; substance abuse) work on the reservation
  • Need more adults caring about kids
  • Neighbors don’t help out or report when they see something suspicious
  • Generational trauma leads to substance abuse, child abuse

Collaboration – Responses

  • Community members don’t know what agencies exist, what services they provide, how they can help in a missing persons case or to prevent someone going missing
  • Communities needs to be educated to know how to work with law enforcement
  • Need to understand what jurisdiction means and who has it
  • Want law enforcement to be watching out for the community rather than just out arresting people; want to see them as part of the solution
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