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Montana 2021 Legislature

Bill Would Extend Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force

Proponents of extending a statewide Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the task force has more work to do to address the still escalating cases of missing and murdered indigenous people, most of whom are minors.

There were no public opponents to Senate Bill 4, which would continue funding the task force, which was started in 2019.

Joan Kresich spoke on behalf of the Northern Plains Resource Council, and provided context for why an inter-agency response is still necessary.

“Much of that violence and trafficking on reservations is committed by non-native people. In other words, this is our problem. We all need to play a part in addressing this crisis and working toward a solution.”

Census data shows that Indigenous people make up six point seven percent of Montana’s population, but make up almost twenty six percent of missing persons cases according to data from the Montana Department of Justice.

Senator Bob Brown, a Republican from Thompson Falls, was one of several committee members expressing support for the bill.

“As we’re going through this testimony, I sit here and I think about my grandkids, and things like that, and I don’t know where I would be at … this rips my heart up just even thinking about it.”

Committee Chair Keith Regier, a Republican from Kalispell, raised questions about whether the task force would help find non-Indigenous missing people.

Regeir said he hopes to have the committee vote on the bill by Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.