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Montana MMIP Reporting Website Expands, Database In Development

Blackfeet Community College
Blackfeet Community College launched in fall 2020 to better connect people reporting missing persons and law enforcement.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are the second tribal nation to integrate a new Montana missing persons reporting website into their protocols when people go missing in the Flathead.

Sean Dillon is one of the primary designers of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Montana Reporting website.

Speaking at an update this weekend, Dillon says the site isn’t intended to do the job of law enforcement. Instead the website and a coordinator act as a community liaison, guiding families through the steps they need to take to immediately report missing persons cases to the relevant law enforcement agencies.

“What we're trying to do is just facilitate that, make it easier for people that aren't exactly sure what to do,” Dillon says.

Blackfeet Community College launched in collaboration with Montana’s Department of Justice last fall, after being awarded funding from the Looping In Native Communities (LINC) grant through Montana’s Missing Indigenous Person Task Force. Blackfeet Nation piloted the site, ushering five cases through the reporting process, and the portal is now available to CSKT as well.

Kimberly Loring says this assistance is crucial and could have made all the difference when her sister, Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, went missing.

“She went missing in June 2017 on the Blackfeet Reservation. When she went missing, there was a gap of when she was reported missing because we had that trust thinking that she was going to be okay,” Loring says.

Blackfeet Community College has also hired Skye Gilham, a forensic anthropologist and professor at BCC, to spend the summer going through statewide missing persons cold cases.

“I know these unsolved cases haunt our Native communities and their loved ones desperately deserve closure and justice,” Gilham says. “I have at this point compiled the case information and data from our database. The next step will be then to reach out to associated law enforcement agencies, to gather case files and pertinent information.

The coalition working on says the goal is to have every tribal nation in the state formally participating by the end of the summer.

The funding for the reporting website and unsolved case database, along with a task force addressing Montana’s disproportionate rates of missing Indigenous people, was created by the 2019 state legislature and extended earlier this year.

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

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.