GREAT FALLS — Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day was observed in Great Falls on Wednesday. Red paper dresses were hung on a fence at Paris Gibson Education Center to mark the occasion. Each dress represents 10 people who are missing. Signs were also placed in the grass in front of the fence.
"We have 1,556 Native American students in our school system, so it's a very important issue for us. that's a lot of kids here and families in town, so making them aware of all of this is very important,” explained Dugan Coburn, director of Indian Education for Great Falls Public Schools.
"This morning when we were hanging them up with our students we had a lot of cars going by and honking and just kind of demonstrating their support that way,” added Jordann Forster, a GFPS teacher.
Two weeks ago, Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill to help address the MMIP crisis in Montana. “The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons crisis has tragically impacted far too many families in Montana, and let me be clear: it must end,” Gianforte said. “The victims and their families deserve justice, and these bills give us the tools we need to track data, raise awareness, and strengthen interagency collaboration to protect Montana’s indigenous persons.”
The governor said that Native Americans make up about 7 percent of the population in Montana, but they account for about 26 percent of missing persons. Between 2017 and 2019, nearly 80 percent of those reported missing were teenagers younger than 18 years of age. Native American women face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average, and 84 percent experience some form of violence in their lifetime.