Federal pilot project to address missing and murdered indigenous persons

by Lake County Leader
| December 1, 2020 1:05 PM

A council meeting of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on Tuesday served as a platform for the launching of a federal pilot program to improve responses to missing person cases among indigenous populations.

U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme and the Tribal Council announced the development of a Tribal Community Response Plan (TCRP), in accordance with Attorney General William P. Barr’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative, and the President’s Operation Lady Justice Task Force, and in furtherance of the goals of the recently-enacted Savanna’s Act.

The goal of a TCRP is to improve responses to missing person cases by establishing a collaborative response from tribal governments, law enforcement and other partners through culturally appropriate guidelines, according to a Tuesday press release from Alme’s office.

The council meeting was also attended by representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, local law enforcement and community organizations.

The goal is to complete this TCRP by Dec. 11. It would be the first of its kind in the nation.

“I am honored to partner with Chairwoman Fyant and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to launch this important pilot project in Montana.” Alme said.

”Our community worked hard to elevate this issue, so it is encouraging to see the effort continue to develop and grow,” CSKT Chairwoman Shelly Fyant said. “We know how important partnerships are, and we will continue to collaborate with stakeholders in our community to implement this plan. We remain committed to working hard and applying resources to ensure our people receive justice.

“The Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force is excited to have the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes be among the first pilot projects for development of Tribal Community Response Plans. We look forward to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our Tribal partners, and local law enforcement on development of the TCRPs,” said Melissa Schlichting, presiding officer of the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force.

Working group meetings with representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the CSKT, law enforcement (including the Flathead Tribal Police Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Sanders County Sheriff’s Office, Polson Police Department, and Ronan Police Department) and community organizations will begin next week to develop the TCRP, which will include guidelines for law enforcement agencies, victim services, community involvement, and media and public communication.

CSKT’s Tribal Council passed a resolution establishing a work group to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous people. CSKT developed their own Missing Persons Protocol with Tribal Law and Order and authorized the development of a social media and tip line. CSKT also hosted a training on human trafficking and its correlation to MMIP and held numerous community meetings on safety awareness. An Arlee Youth Group was formed and has hosted Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women presentations on student safety awareness. The Council also voted unanimously to increase the reward money to $11,000 for any information that leads to solving the case of missing CSKT tribal member Jermain Charlo, who went missing in 2018. The Council helps support a Jermain Charlo billboard near Missoula.