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Montana advocate responds to recommendations for improved investigations and response to cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people

The Not Invisible Act Commission held a listening session in Billings on July 25, 2023.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
The Not Invisible Act Commission held a listening session in Billings on July 25, 2023.

The congressionally-formed Not Invisible Act Commission on November 1 published proposed changes in policy, law and programming that members believe would improve the investigation, prosecution and communication of MMIP cases.

Charlene Sleeper, who’s Arapaho, Southern Cheyenne and Crow, is part of the Billings MMIP grassroots movement and said, after years of work, the report is tangible evidence of progress.

“It makes me feel like we’re actually getting things done,” said Sleeper. “I get a little negative sometimes because it takes so long, because it’s such a slow process, but I’m like dang, if my grandmother was alive today, she’d be so happy because this isn’t stuff that happened in her lifetime.”

Members of the Not Invisible Act Commission held listening sessions in seven communities caught in the MMIP epidemic. Sleeper was active in organizing around the listening session this summer in Billings.

A large part of the session was closed to the public to provide a safe space for survivors, family, friends and others to share. According to the Not Invisible Act Commission, more than 130 people gathered in Billings for an opportunity to give testimony or hear others’.

Sleeper said she sees in the report that commissioners heard them, and the process itself provided insight on how to work with tribal communities: “Which is by inviting us to the table and then taking our issues seriously where - that’s where we struggle a lot. Is just being heard. So the fact that this even exists is phenomenal.”

Editor’s Note, November 13: A former version of this story misstated the name of the commission. It has been corrected. 

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.