Indigenous Communities Look Inward For Solutions

Feb 14, 2019

Picture of 14-year-old Henny Scott, of Lame Deer, inlaid in wood at her funeral. Scott's body was found in December.
Credit Kayla Desroches / KMXT

As Congress considers bills to address the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women, reservation communities are tired of waiting.

Today, Northern Cheyenne tribal members are holding the third memorial march for a young girl whose body was found in late December, three weeks after her mother last spoke to her.

Local activist Dean Wallowing Bull said families want justice, and they’re tired of feeling alone in trying to get it.

“It’s not up to anybody else to help us,” said Wallowing Bull. “It’s up to us to help us now.”

People in Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne reservation are looking for solutions from within the community.

Wallowing Bull said volunteers have formed a group that uses social media and word of mouth to find loved ones if they go missing.

“They’re taking our ideas that we talked about at the community meetings, and part of that was people spreading out to look around, to look out, to reach out, to their friends, to their family,” said Wallowing Bull.

Other indigenous communities are also trying to generate answers internally.

The tribal council on Flathead Reservation in western Montana recently formed a workgroup to brainstorm possible solutions to the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Native American communities hope for a quicker and more efficient response to ongoing and emerging cases.

Dean Wallowing Bull says the third memorial march for Henny Scott is aimed at keeping the issue at the forefront of people’s minds.

Legislators appear to be paying attention.

Bills that could address how law enforcement agencies respond to reports of missing and murdered indigenous people are before the Montana state legislature.

One would require the employment of a statewide missing person specialist.

Another would put more stringent requirements in place when a child’s family reports him or her missing by requiring law enforcement to submit that child’s information to a national database. It could also allow guardians to submit information to the database once they file a report with authorities.