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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 1, 2020

U.S. ATTORNEY KURT ALME AND THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES LAUNCH PILOT PROJECT TO ADDRESS MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS PERSONS

The Pilot Project Will Develop Guidelines to Improve Community Responses to American Indian and Alaska Native Missing Person Cases

PABLO — Today, at a council meeting of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation (CSKT), U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme and the CSKT Council launched a pilot project to develop 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 emergent American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) missing person cases by establishing a collaborative response from Tribal governments, law enforcement, and other partners through culturally appropriate guidelines. The U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies developed draft guides to assist in developing TCRPs with input from tribal leaders, tribal law enforcement and their communities.

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 and when finished, the TCRP will be the first one completed in the country. Lessons learned from the pilot project will be used to improve the draft guides for developing a TCRP before they are released to Tribes across the country.

“I am honored to partner with Chairwoman Fyant and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to launch this important pilot project in Montana.” U.S. Attorney Alme said. “Since Attorney General Barr announced the MMIP Initiative here last year, we have been working hard to complete draft guides to assist our joint efforts to develop a Tribal Community Response Plan specific to the needs, resources and culture of the Flathead Community. In spite of significant challenges brought on by COVID-19, we are pleased to be back almost a year later ready to complete this important step in addressing MMIP cases.  I want to thank all of the partners who have agreed to be a part of this process. After these pilot projects are completed and the guides are finalized, Savanna’s Act directs our office to continue working with partners such as our other Tribal governments to ensure guidelines are developed across the Montana.” 

”Our community worked hard to elevate this issue so it is encouraging to see the effort continue to develop and grow,” said Chairwoman Shelly R. Fyant, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. “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. The TCRP 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.

For the past two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Montana has worked with Tribal government partners, the Montana Department of Justice, the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons (MIP) Task Force, the FBI and the BIA to bring awareness to and address this important issue. It hired the country’s first MMIP Coordinator, who has helped coordinate responses to missing person cases; held two statewide trainings for law enforcement on how to use missing person databases and alerts (such as Amber Alerts), and for the public on what to do when a loved one goes missing; brought trainers from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) to all seven Montana reservations to train community members on how to use that system when a loved one goes missing; participated in the efforts of the Montana MIP Task Force, which have included ensuring that all missing AI/AN persons have been entered into the Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse to ensure they are being looked for; and developed a public service announcement to inform the public about what to do when a loved one goes missing.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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Topic(s): 
Indian Country Law and Justice
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Clair Johnson Howard Public Information Officer 406-247-4623
Updated December 1, 2020