Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Montana's Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force Address Meth and Human Trafficking

A sign from a Jan. 9, 2019 missing and murdered Indigenous women vigil in Missoula.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
A sign from a Jan. 9, 2019 missing and murdered Indigenous women vigil in Missoula.

Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force met for a third time  in Billings Friday, Sept. 27.

Charyl Eagle came to the meeting to make sure task force members address how meth and human trafficking might affect Montana’s high rate of missing indigenous people.

My brother was murdered four years ago in Butte, Montana. He was stabbed to death seven times, and I believe it was over meth," Eagle says.

Eagle, a Blackfeet tribal member, says meth helps explain why indigenous people go missing at rates that outpace their share of the state population.

She was one of about fifteen people who came to see the task force deliberate, including Melinda Limberhand, Hanna Harris’ mom, and two officers with the police force at Montana State University-Billings.

The task force was created last legislative session to help address jurisdictional barriers and commision a missing persons database for cases on Montana reservations.

On Friday, the task force discussed what kind of data to collect and who should be able to access it. They agreed they want law enforcement throughout the state to be notified when new entries are added.

Local law enforcement wasn’t required to attend Friday’s meeting but Eagle says, "But shouldn’t they be here? It’s not a requirement for law enforcement to attend, and really it should be. Why is that not a requirement?"

Northern Cheyenne president Rynalea Whiteman Pena has her own frustrations with law enforcement.

She says she recently went to the march for Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, an indigenous girl whose body was found last month shortly after her eighteenth birthday. This is how Pena felt when she saw the Hardin backyard she was found in:

"That really made me angry," Pena says.

She says the yard was close to the street and behind an inhabited house. It took five days for police to find Stops Pretty Places after her family says she disappeared.

Pena says she hopes in the future, law enforcement will take cases of missing Native Americans more seriously.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.