Montana Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Bills Signed
On Thursday morning, Governor Greg Gianforte held a signing ceremony for a suite of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons bills at his office in the state capitol.
Gianforte, flanked by several Native American legislators, as well as family members and friends of missing people, spoke of the importance of the bills.
“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons crisis has tragically impacted far too many families in Montana,” said Gianforte. “Let me be clear, it must end. In Montana Native Americans make up about 7% of the population, but they account for 26% of missing persons.”
Gianforte provided the tragic statistics.
“Between 2017 and 2019, nearly 80% of those reported missing were teenagers younger than 18 years of age,” he said. “Native American women face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average, and 84% experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.”
Gianforte described the two bills he would later sign.
“House Bill 35 establishes the Missing Indigenous Persons Review Commission at the Montana Department of Justice,” he said. “The Attorney General will appoint members of the commission will include representatives from the tribes, state government, nonprofits, and local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement. House Bill 98 extends the Missing and murdered indigenous persons Task Force and the looping in Native communities or link grant program.”
The Governor then introduced Cheryl Horn, the aunt of Selena Not Afraid, who disappeared between Billings and Hardin on New Years Day of 2020. Her body was found three weeks later less than a mile from where she was last seen.
“We're here because of not just Selena, but Selena told me ‘don't stop’ because there are other girls standing behind me,” said Ms. Horn. “So when we did get her back, which is amazing a miracle that we got her back because some don't come home; we're all here today because somebody did hear Selena, they did hear Kaysera, they did here Kelani; they heard them through us, they heard them through them, and they heard them through Governor Gianforte.”
Also attending was American Indian Caucus and Director of Indian Affairs Misty Kuhl.