Lame Deer family pleads for MMIP awareness after daughter's death

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 11:18:52-05

LAME DEER — Deanna Limberhand is one of the many indigenous women in Montana who have either been murdered or are currently missing. Her family is still looking for answers and they’re hoping a new website from the Bureau of Indian Affairs might help find Deanna’s murderer.

“When I hear her favorite song, it’s like it’s just now hitting me,” said her mother Darlene on Monday.

It’s been six months since Darlene lost her daughter; Deanna’s body was found in the Stillwater River near Absarokee.

Though the cause of Deanna’s death was listed as drowning, her family believes that she was murdered.

“We also heard that she was tied, that they hogtied her, and then she was beaten with a bat,” Darlene said.

Deanna was an outgoing mother of three who relished the time she spent with her family.

“You know, she liked to visit. She liked to visit, she liked to spend time with her friends, she liked to do things that were outgoing,” said her aunt Rynalea Whiteman Pena.

Pena describes her niece as a kindhearted woman with a lot of love. Sadly, the story of Deanna’s death is one that many Native Americans are all too familiar with.

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A significant portion of missing and murdered cases in Montana are those of indigenous people, and the victims are mostly women.

“It’s an epidemic and it’s been going on for decades,” said Department of Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has launched a new website to raise awareness about this epidemic. The website works as a hotline where people can submit tips on cases of missing and murdered indigenous people.

Officials launched the website in December 2021 to connect people to the proper authorities who might have information about cases involving missing and murdered indigenous people.

The website states: "American Indian and Alaska Native people are at a disproportionate risk of experiencing violence, murder, or going missing and make up a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases. The Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) investigates missing and murdered cases in pursuit of justice for those impacted by violence."

“Part of the problem is that we don’t always have the best data of the full size and scope of this problem,” Newland said.

Newland hopes this website will connect the public with the BIA and other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Justice.

“By linking this up, this will allow us to share information more easily and help solve these cases and bring closure to families who need it,” said Newland.

Deanna’s family says that this is a step in the right direction, but they’re still frustrated with the response from law enforcement.

“Law enforcement responding to it is very weak. I do believe she’s been pushed to the side,” Pena said.

The family believes there’s more to be done.

“There needs to be more awareness,” Darlene said.


More information from the Missing & Murdered Unit website:

  • The BIA, Office of Justice Services established the Missing and Murdered Unit to focus on analyzing and solving missing and murdered cases involving American Indians and Alaska Natives. Investigators and other specialists work to leverage tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to enhance the criminal justice system and address the legitimate concerns of AI/AN communities, regarding missing and murdered people – specifically missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
  • The Missing and Murdered Unit is unique in OJS in that it has the ability to marshal law enforcement resources across the Office of Justice Services and was given an expanded ability to collaborate efforts with other agencies, such as enhancing the DOJ’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and developing strategic partnerships with additional stakeholders such as the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Units (BAU’s), the FBI Forensic Laboratory, the US Marshals Missing Child Unit (MCU) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
  • In addition to reviewing unsolved cases, the MMU works with Tribal, BIA and FBI Investigators on active missing and murdered investigations. BIA law enforcement have numerous open cases agents are investigating. The MMU handles acute cases, which are cases that are considered either an endangered missing person, have been missing for a long term, or are an unsolved homicide. The BIA seeks public assistance and information on these cases involving missing or murdered victims in Indian Country.

“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous peoples crisis has plagued Indian Country for too long, with cases often going unsolved and unaddressed,” said Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, in a news release. “This new website represents a new tool in the effort to keep communities safe and provide closure for families.”