At the University of Montana's Alice Lund Instructional Auditorium on Saturday afternoon, the Blackfeet Community College held a ZOOM press conference to introduce its own MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons) database and reporting portal.

President of Blackfeet Community College, Dr. Karla Bird made the announcement.

“Today is a very important day as Blackfeet Community College unveils its MMIP database and online reporting portal,” said Dr. Bird. “Here at Blackfeet Community College we adhere to several cultural values, which include the values of leadership and respect. Respect and leadership within the Blackfoot worldview includes a high level of responsibility to protect and value all forms of sacred life.”

 

“We remind people that this is not just about statistics, and other miscellaneous numbers, it's about Jermaine Charlo, Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, Hannah Harris, Savannah La Fontaine Gray Wind, Kaycerra Stops Pretty Places. Selena Not Afraid, Miranda Rosie Kenmille, and many, many other young women who are still missing or whose lives have been heartbreakingly cut short.”

Ashley Loring, sister of one of the missing women, spoke to the audience at the college and online with an introspective comment on the responsibilities of all those involved.

“We talk a lot about holding all the law enforcement accountable, but the biggest question of the day is, are we holding ourselves accountable and by taking care of each other,” said Ms. Loring. “It's a long road to accept the fact that all of this could have been prevented, and instead of dreaming, Ashley would have been here, something I had to hold on for my life.”

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member, provided a prerecorded comment for the press conference.

“The rates of missing persons cases in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities are disproportionately alarming and unacceptable,” said Secretary Haaland. “I know what it's like to worry for my mothers,  my sisters, my child, and my relatives, because we are at an increased risk of disappearing without warning. Many times cases go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated. But I believe we are at an inflection point. We have a president and a government that is prioritizing this issue and we can't turn back.”

In 2017, students at BCC built a website to demand justice for former student Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, a 20-year-old who disappeared from the Blackfeet Nation. BCC then received a $25,000 Department of Justice grant included in 2019 Montana Senate Bill 312, the Looping in Native Communities Act, to create the database and portal on the website. The law required the college to identify a $25,000 match and AT&T provided the full match.

 

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