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Montana 2021 Legislature

Trio Of Bills Addressing Missing, Murdered Indigenous People Crisis Signed Into Law

Caption: Members of Montana's American Indian Caucus along with Selena Not Afraid's relatives gather around Governor's desk for MMIP bill signing ceremony.
Kaitlyn Nicholas
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Caption: Members of Montana's American Indian Caucus along with Selena Not Afraid's relatives gather around Governor's desk for MMIP bill signing ceremony.

The third bill in a package meant to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons crisis in Montana was signed into law Thursday.

Members of Montana’s American Indian Caucus along with family members of Selena Not Afraid, a Crow teenage girl who was found dead in January 2020, gathered for a signing ceremony at the Governor’s office.

“We're here not just because of Selena but Selena told me, ‘Don't stop, because there's other girls standing behind me,'” said Cheryl Horn, a prominent MMIW advocate and the aunt of Selena Not Afraid.

The bills brought by Democratic Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy and Republican Sen. Jason Small extend and make funding available for Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force and create a missing persons review commission at the Montana Department of Justice to review missing Indigenous persons cold cases and analyze law enforcement to improve response.

Gov. Greg Gianforte said it was an honor to bring awareness and solutions to the crisis.

Native American lawmakers spoke about the importance of relying on education instead of stereotypes in Indigenous missing persons cases and reminded listeners that tribal members are also citizens of Montana who should be valued equally.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America Indigenous affairs reporter.