The story of a Northern Cheyenne woman will be featured in two national pop-culture shows this week. The Dr. Oz Show and MTV are airing episodes about Hanna Harris, who went missing and was murdered in 2013.
Family remembers Harris for her spontaneity, mischievousness and smile in an episode of MTV’s True Life Crime series set to air on Feb. 26.
The 21-year-old mother went missing from Lame Deer on the Fourth of July, 2013. Two people were later imprisoned for their roles in her murder.
MTV news reporter Dometi Pongo frames Harris’ disappearance within the missing and murdered indigenous women movement.
Harris’s family, along with reporter Pongo, also appeared on the Dr. Oz Show this week.
Blackfeet documentary filmmaker Ivan MacDonald told YPR that telling stories like Harris’ on shows with such large audiences can be a form of healing for families.
"We often hear from a lot of our families, the families we work with, that storytelling is some form of justice. It might not be justice in the legal sense but there’s this sense of spiritual justice that their loved one’s story will be known," MacDonald said.
MacDonald and his sister Ivy recently previewed their film, When They Were Here. He calls it their "attempt to collect the stories of these lost and stolen mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins.”
MacDonald says exposure can be helpful for families and the MMIW movement. But he adds shallow reporting or sensationalism can cause deep emotional harm for families asked to repeat one of the most traumatic moments of their lives again and again.
"As these stories become more readily or widely covered, I think that’s something we should strive for, to tell these stories in the most respectable way," MacDonald said.
He adds MTV may be reaching an audience for whom Harris’ story is news.
"I’m excited to see it and see how it comes across from an agency that might not have historically had that connection or connotation to presenting this kind of topic," MacDonald said.