Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force reconvened on June 3 for the first time since April to review their work to date and go over future goals, including an upcoming legislative report due this fall.
The task force’s report for the State Tribal Relations Interim Committee, due by September, will make recommendations to legislators based on its research and work over the past two years.
During a meeting via Zoom, Tina Chamberlain, the MIP LINC grant coordinator, presented a recent analysis of state Department of Justice data.
The analysis found Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing than other demographics; the majority of young people who go missing go missing more than once, and Big Horn County has twice the rate of missing persons per capita than the next county, Rosebud.
"The analysis in this report, so far, is the most comprehensive missing persons that we know of in any other state in the country. Looking deeper into the active cases from the past three years, looking at education records, youth court records, tribal records, will help us understand not only who is going missing but why they are going missing as well," Chamberlain said.
The state’s new missing persons specialist, Brian Frost, says he’s standing up new protocols to involve Child Protective Services in all relevant missing persons cases and to continue efforts to align state, tribal and law enforcement databases.
Frost also discussed an upcoming training to include more photos on missing persons alerts.
"It's easy to report someone missing and say, ‘Okay, well they're five foot four, they're a hundred pounds, they're female, they have brown hair,' but that describes a lot of Montana. Unfortunately, missing youth--sometimes we don't get a lot of photos. So this'll help kind of bridge that gap," Frost said.
COVID-19 has slowed the task force’s progress but they hope to reconvene in July and August.