Char-Koosta News 

PABLO — Not long after a young Flathead Reservation woman was reported missing from Missoula, Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal leadership and concerned citizens started brainstorming solutions to confront a crisis that has plagued Native communities for decades. 

Since the June 2018 disappearance of Jermain Charlo, family, community members and law enforcements have conducted searches in the Missoula and Flathead Reservation areas. Currently, the Charlo investigation is ongoing with CSKT Tribal Law Enforcement, Lake County, Missoula County, Flathead and Sanders County.

MMIWG Work Group Meetings:

• Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. – Ronan Indian Senior Center

• Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. – Elmo Hall (following the Elder’s meeting)

• Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. – Arlee Indian Senior Center (held jointly with Arlee District meeting with a meal at 5:30 p.m.)

“The question was asked ‘how do we get into a position to react or respond to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls cases?’ ” said CSKT Tribal Council Rep. Charmel Gillin. 

“Not everyone can be out there or go to the marches. We wanted to develop a network to be able to respond immediately with a system in place when someone from our community comes up missing,” said Gillin. 

Talk began of developing work groups across the Reservation boundaries where concerned community members would be empowered to come up with ideas and plans to remedy the MMIWG crisis. “A work group would empower people to lend time and help make a difference,” said Gillin. 

On Friday, January 4, Jami Pluff, CSKT policy analyst; CSKT Law and Order, Louis Fiddler; and CSKT Tribal Council support, Tom Johnson gave a report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls at the Tribal Council Winter Quarterly Meeting. The team showed a video clip about 20-year-old Browning-resident Ashley Loring Heavy Runner’s disappearance, and the unsolved 1978 case of seven year-old Monica Still Smoking. 

The MMIW presentation team said the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reported 633 women missing nationally. The Montana State Department of Justice reports 72 women missing of whom 22 are Native. The team described efforts and legislation that is ongoing state-wide and nationally.

CSKT Tribal Council directed Pluff to continue tracking the MMIWG issue and provide education to the public and to follow up on the request for a resolution outlining the CSKT response to MMIWG report. Gillin requested the resolution include the formation of a work group and committee with representatives from each district and funding for committee operations.

CSKT Tribal Council moved rapidly on the request and on Tuesday, January 8, the CSKT Resolution 19-072 to establish a work group to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls passed unanimously. The motion was by CSKT Rep. Shelly Fyant and seconded by CSKT Rep. Anita Matt. 

The CSKT resolution 19-072 reads that CSKT wants to promote education and awareness for young women regarding sex trafficking and to collaborate with grassroots organizations and groups to promote a greater awareness of MMIWG and its correlation with domestic and sexual assault, runaways, and drug activity. (Read the entire resolution below.)

The CSKT resolutions ends stating, “CSKT will create a work group to address MMIWG issues and assist in funding the work group operations to develop CSKT action plan and provide outreach to other tribes and organizations.”

Last week, a letter from CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Ronald Trahan invited tribal and non-tribal community members to upcoming meetings to discuss MMIWG. The formation of the work groups hopes to develop community-based efforts to promote education and awareness, to support pending legislation regarding MMIWG, and to create an action plan. 

All who are interested in participating are urged to attend the upcoming meetings in the Ronan/Pablo, Arlee and Elmo communities.

RESOLUTION 19-072

RESOLUTION ESTABLISHING A WORK GROUP TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES THAT:

WHEREAS, There are over 1662 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in the U.S. In Montana, there are 72 missing cases and 22 of those are Native American. CSKT Law enforcement are currently investigating 2 cases in collaboration with Lake, Missoula, Flathead and Sanders County Sheriff’s offices aswell as Dunn and McKenzie counties in North Dakota; and

WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault and one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime. Murder is the third leading cause of death among Native American women; and

WHEREAS, with the growing national attention of missing and murdered women and girls, there is pending legislation regarding MMIWG at the State and Federallevel that needs support; and

WHEREAS, CSKT wants to promote education and awareness for young women regarding safety and sex trafficking; and

WHEREAS, CSKT wants to collaborate with Grassroots organizations and groups to promote a greater awareness of MMIWG and its correlation with domestic and sexual assault, runaways, drug activity and sex trafficking; NOWTHEREFORE

BE IT RESOLVED, CSKT will create a workgroup to address these MMIW issues and assist in funding the workgroup operations to develop a CSKT action plan and provide outreach to other tribes and organizations.

Jami Pluff, Policy Analyst, informed council that she was just provided the donation request and requested direction on whether to bring it back next Tuesday. Jennifer Trahan requested direction on whether it would be a tribal council donation.

MOTION by Charmel Gillin to approve a $1,000 donation for the CSKT families and organizations that are participating in the MMIW vigil as speakers and the Color Guard, per council limitation policy for organizations. Seconded by Anita Matt.Carried, unanimous (7 present).

Council met in executive session to discuss a personnel matter. Council reconvened into regular session.

MOTION by Len TwoTeeth to adjourn the meeting. Seconded by DennisClairmont. Carried, unanimous (7 present).

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(1) comment

Polson Live MT

Congrats to the Tribes for taking on this important and challenging issue. I've covered and been involved in this kind of issue before and it becomes a two-pronged strategy. One focusing on how to better prepare and protect potential victims and the other is to try and discover the whereabouts of the ones who are so sadly still missing. Hats off to the Char Koosta since the new regime took over. Better writing, better stories, better presentation and wildly improved internet presence.

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