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Montana Tribal Leaders Say Canadian MMIW Inquiry Reason to Push For Solutions

Nadya Kwandibens
The National Inquiry
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses at the release of The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on Monday, June 3, 2019.

After two years in the making, the Canadian government released its National Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous persons on Monday. The report concluded that the violence committed against indigenous communities amounts to a “race-based genocide” by the Canadian government.

The Inquiry doesn’t put an official number on how many deaths or disappearances there have been in indigenous communities. The report said there’s no way of knowing since, “thousands of women’s deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades.”

Some tribal academics and leaders say that the report is a reason to push harder for answers and protections in Montana.

Annita Lucchesi said it not a competition but, “we actually have more cases in the U.S. than we do in Canada.”

That’s according to a database Lucchesi created. It documents missing and murdered indigenous women across the U.S. and Canada.

“I make that point to say that if they’ve been able to prove that genocide is occuring in Canada then it definitely is occuring in the states as well,” Lucchesi said.

She just doesn’t think that an inquiry here is the answer. That’s because the National Inquiry’s recommendations are technically optional, although it said that Canada has a “legal imperative” to implement them.

The Inquiry, which called its recommendations “Calls for Justice,” demanded funding for educational campaigns to prevent violence, the appointment of an ombudsman to protect indigenous rights and expanded representation of indigenous people in the justice system.

Lucchesi still wants laws rather than recommendations. She’d like to see Savanna’s Act pass, which is a federal bill that would standardize how federal and tribal agencies respond to cases of missing Native Americans and collect data about them.

Shane Morigeau says our current system for collecting data already gets the job done.

“Do we need data to know that this is a problem in Montana for just MMIW?” Morigeau said. “No, we know this is a problem.”

Morigeau is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. He’s a Democrat from Missoula in the State House of Representatives. He helped pass a string of bills about this issue last legislative session, and he said he wants to help pass even more but that they should do more than just study the cases after the fact.

He wants healthcare, transportation and education initiatives. He called it proactive not reactive solutions