RONAN — A red handprint was part of the uniform and spirit of a team of 11-year-old boys at the Ronan Pioneer Days 3-on-3 basketball tournament this past weekend that brought awareness to the tragic epidemic of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP).
Valenda Morigeau, aunt of missing Flathead Reservation woman Jermain Charlo, painted the boys faces and explained that the symbolism of the hand print across the mouth meant “no more silence about our women missing” and “speaking out on the awareness.”
Although Morigeau or their parents weren’t sure the boys fully understood what MMIWP meant, their performance on the court displayed an understanding through their games.
They played different, said team member Tryance Matt’s mother Tyra Babette. “It was like they were fighting really hard to win,” she said, adding that the boys held their composure so well it was clearly noticeable. [“They played like] she (Jermain) was there with them.”
Babette, who is originally from Yakama tribe, said her son read an article awhile back in the Yakima Herald about MMIWP where he noticed a football player played with the red handprint across his mouth. Tryance, a basketball player, decided then he wanted to do the same.
“He wanted to bring awareness for the women being taken here and all other places but wanted to honor Jermain since she is from here and we know her family,” Babette said.
“Maybe we can have a poster with her picture and more people will see it and know something,” Matt told his mom. Matt said he doesn’t want people to be quiet anymore and for someone to give her family answers. “Someone has to know something,” he said.
Tryance team “Hustle Ur Bustle” was a thrown-together team but they won a third place title. Cody Haggard, Wyatt Thomas, Tryance Matt, Jhett McDonald and Lex LaFrombois made up the weekend team. Original teammates Talon and Thomas Addision were at Rocky Boy powwow dancing this weekend and could not join.
Babette said one of the players, Cody Haggard, who is more of a football and baseball player, ran the court hard. “It was pretty cool to see how they played as a team,” she said, adding that his parents said they noticed how playing in this tournament and for a cause lifted his confidence in the game and in life.
“I am proud of them all and all the kids that are fighting to play basketball on and off the rez,” Babette said. “They get profiled so much and to see them keep on going and love the game and represent this reservation whether they are from these tribes here or another. The (racism) doesn’t let it hold them down.”
Morigeau said the young boys are future warriors. She said she thanks the boys for not only bringing awareness of MMIWP but also helping her family. “I and the family appreciate what they did,” Morigeau said.
The Jermain Charlo investigation is still ongoing. Charlo was last seen near the Orange Street Food Farm in Missoula in June 2018.
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information regarding Jermain Charlo.
If anyone has information call Missoula Detective Guy Baker at 406-396-3217 or Missoula Crime Stoppers at 406-721-4444.