Ashley Loring turned 22 years old this month as family members continue to search for her. She was last seen in June of 2017.
Loring, who also goes by Ashley HeavyRunner, disappeared on the Blackfeet Reservation when she was 20 years old.
In a Facebook post, Ashley’s family asked that anyone with information regarding her disappearance to please come forward.
Loring’s family and friends have spent over a year looking for her and the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the search in February of 2018.
In June, at a march in honor of Ashley, her sister Kimberly Loring told MTN News that they will not stop until they get the answers they seek.
Ashley has raised awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women across the country and helped bring the epidemic into the spotlight.
Her disappearance has grabbed national attention and prompted calls by lawmakers to address the issue.
Unfortunately, Ashley’s family has faced additional challenges such as when they discovered a fake Facebook profile using her pictures. The profile has since been taken down.
If you have any information about Ashley’s whereabouts or what may have happened to her, you are asked to call the BIA at 406-338-4000 or your local law enforcement agency.
(July 11, 2018) Roylynn Rides Horse of Crow Agency was beaten and burned alive in April of 2016 on the Crow Indian Reservation.
She died from her injuries two months later in Utah.
Although three people have been arrested and charged in connection with her murder, problems often arise with jurisdiction on tribal lands.
For Annita Lucchesi, tribes and law enforcement need to come together to address jurisdictional issues.
“Roylynn’s case was really extreme violence,” Lucchesi said. “I think it was really disturbing for a lot of us to read about.”
She said, however, it is a tragic reality for people living on reservations.
Lucchesi is a doctoral student at the University of Lethbridge who started the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database in 2015.
“Part of the reason I am doing this work is because I was almost one of these women. I experienced domestic violence that threatened my life,” she said.
Lucchesi needed a base number for missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States and Canada in order to start her research, but she soon learned that would be difficult to uncover.
“None of the lists matched. None of them are updated frequently. None of them are very thorough. None of them include both countries,” she said. “So it really was kind of a mess.”
Lucchesi then discovered there were more missing cases than she expected. She said that since she started the database, there has been an average of 200 to 300 new cases every year.
“That excludes missing persons cases that are solved so just the new cases to add,” Lucchesi said. “If we use that as a kind of benchmark going back to the 1900s, that means they are missing about 20,000 cases.”
Lucchesi also found that processing the data before 1990 is difficult due to the lack of law enforcement records, some cases not being taken seriously, and other cases not being reported.
“There has been a lot of organizing from within native communities, but it does not often get shared in mainstream media or outside of native communities,” she said.
One person that became a public figure for the missing and murdered indigenous movement is Ashley Loring, who was one of Lucchesi’s students when she taught at Blackfeet Community College in Browning.
Ashley disappeared from the Blackfeet Reservation in June of 2017. Her family is still searching for her.
Lucchesi said Ashley became interested in the movement when they discussed the epidemic in class.
“It was something she felt like she wanted to do something about. It is unfortunate that she is participating in the way that she is. I wish she was home safe. I wish that this never happened. I take comfort knowing that she is doing what she wanted to do. She is raising awareness. She is building healing and safety for our girls.”
Lucchesi also expressed the problem is not just an indigenous issue although many people do not understand why this degree of violence is taking place on tribal lands.
She said one way to change is to give the tribes the power they need to protect their people.
“I think that means drastically changing the jurisdictional structure, not just in Montana, but nationally,” Lucchesi said. “I think that would require more cooperation and better relationships between tribal government and law enforcement off the reservation.”
Lucchesi also said people need to start listening to the indigenous women who are affected by violence.
“If people started listening to us and really listening to our ideas on how to make our communities better, on how to strengthen our nations, on how to revitalize our communities, I think we would see some great changes.”
As of April of 2018, Lucchesi’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database had 2,501 cases.