Kalispell event focuses on missing and murdered indigenous women

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Love Lives Here and Flathead Valley Community College’s Montana American Indian Scholars Program are teaming up for an upcoming event that aims to spotlight the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The event is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in room 139 of the FVCC Arts and Technology building in Kalispell, and will feature a short documentary titled “When They Were Here” by Blackfeet and Shoshone filmmakers Ivan and Ivy MacDonald. The film “elevates the stories and voices of indigenous people who have been harmed,” according to a press release.

The documentary showing will be followed by a panel discussion comprised of distinguished indigenous women leaders from across Montana who will discuss firsthand real-life impacts of the issue, specifically in Montana — a state that outpaces most in cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We know that these women are here to educate us on this crisis, even though they themselves have experienced the trauma of having relatives who are missing or never returned home alive. We are deeply grateful for their efforts to help us understand this situation while making Montana communities stronger and safer,” Love Lives Here leadership team member Loti Laferriere said.

Speakers include Marita GrowingThunder Fogarty, organizer of the annual 80-mile March to honor murdered and missing indigenous women; Briana Lamb, Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s guest to this year’s State of the Union Address; and Tara Walker Lyons, who created “Tara’s Law.” The legislation made a comprehensive educational component for schools to teach about sexual abuse prevention.

Statistics from the Sovereign Bodies Institute show that 40 percent of Montana’s missing and murdered person’s cases are Native American, yet Native Americans make up only 6 percent of the state’s population.

The issue has gained more notice in recent years with indigenous and non-indigenous leaders pushing for different pieces of legislation and for solutions on a local community level as well.

And according to the press release, “the key to ending the disappearance and murder of indigenous women is to educate as many people as we can. Once people know how and when to respond, we can start finding our sisters and saving lives.”

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