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New Fund to Support Indigenous Families Searching for Missing Loved Ones

The logo for the Snowbird Fund from the Montana Community Foundation, art by Persephone Sandoval
The logo for the Snowbird Fund from the Montana Community Foundation, art by Persephone Sandoval

A new grant fund to provide aid to Indigenous families conducting searches for missing loved ones launched Wednesday. The Montana Community Foundation established the first of its kind program.

Families conducting community searches for missing loved ones can use the $500 direct payment for a wide variety of resources from gas money and hotel stays to drones to hosting a community vigil.

2020 Democratic candidate for governor Whitney Williams says her family's past advocacy for Indigenous people in Montana and her experiences on the campaign trail inspired her to donate $50,000 to start the fund.

"Families told me they need immediate help and financial aid in their searches. Snowbird will alleviate some immediate needs and continue to bring light to this very dark epidemic," Williams said.

Mary Rutherford, president and CEO of the Montana Community Foundation, says they’re still figuring out the details of the program.

"We’ve never done anything like this before. We don’t know of anyone else in Montana who’s doing something like this and frankly we can’t find any across the United States who’s doing anything like this," Rutherford said.

Ivan MacDonald will review aid applications for MCF. He’s a filmmaker and member of the Blackfeet Tribe. The missing and murdered Indiginous person crisis directly impacted both his work and personal life. While he documented their experiences, MacDonald says he found most families organized searches themselves.

"Something like this fund is incredibly important because it allows families to get that early funding at the very start of their search," MacDonald said.

According to a press release from MCF, Native Americans represent 6.5 percent of Montana’s population but account for 27 percent of the state’s missing persons cases. The release says 20 Indigenous women and girls go missing in Montana each year.

Families can apply for aid on the Montana Community Foundation’s website at mtcf.org.