BROWNING — The effort to recover the body of three-year-old Arden Pepion southeast of Browning continued on Monday. She was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89.
The rescue effort was formally declared a recovery effort on Saturday. Officials said at the time that "based on the elements and duration of time that has passed since she was last seen, we have come to realize that it is now a recovery."
At this point, authorities have no indication that Arden was abducted, and are continuing to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance.
Since then, search and rescue personnel have been working around the clock to find the little girl and bring her body home.
“We’ve had some helicopters, drones and things of that nature, divers.” said Blackfeet Nation public information officer James McNeely. “The focus is the river right now.”
Over the weekend, Bureau of Indian Affairs and irrigation officials redirected river water from the Two Medicine into an irrigation ditch to lower water levels and assist searchers.
“It did divert quite a bit of water and that diversion is about 5-6 miles west of where they're looking so it did help some today (Monday),” he said.
“The bad thing about that area is the lack of cell service and radio transmission,” said McNeely. “So we're hoping to get that up within the next day or two so we can have better reception for everyone.”
Around 150 people are currently on site assisting; McNeely tells MTN News they’re not in need of any more volunteers, but always welcome donations to help those involved in the recovery mission. If you would like to donate, call Denise Salois at 406-845-8100 or Mabel Running Fisher at 406-845-6168 for more information.
NOTE: A Blackfeet official told MTN News that the Montana National Guard was assisting in the search; we have since learned that the Guard is not involved in the effort. A MT National Guard spokesman told MTN that it is actually members of the Civil Air Patrol that are assisting.
Volunteers have set up a "cook shack" for search personnel to get hot food and beverages, thanks to community donations. WATCH:
SATURDAY: Search for child shifts to recovery
(UPDATE, FRIDAY, 4:35 p.m.) The Montana Department has issued a Missing-Endangered Person Advisory for Arden, at the request of the Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services. Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services also asked that anyone with information about Arden, or anyone who has questions about the search, to call 406-845-8710, saying that they will "answer questions to the best of our ability."
Some people have asked why an AMBER Alert has not been issued. The reason is that officials have no indications that Arden was abducted, which is the primary factor used to determine if an AMBER Alert is issued. Click here to learn more about AMBER Alerts.
(1st REPORT, FRIDAY 10:59 a.m.) Early Friday, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services (BLES) posted an "attempt to locate" message for three-year old Arden Pepion. The alert says that she was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89. Arden was last seen wearing a purple jacket with a a unicorn design on the front, a grey under-sweater, black leggings, and black boots with green trim.
Law enforcement officers, tribal leaders, and volunteers are searching the area, some on horseback and ATVs. James McNeely, public information officer for the Blackfeet Tribe, said in a news release: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family for a safe return of Arden as well as prayers for the safety of all our search and rescue teams who have been working very diligently during this time.
Anyone who has seen Arden or who has information about her location is asked to call Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services at 406-338-4000, or call 911. We will update you if we get more information.