NewsIndian Country


Community members gather to raise awareness for MMIP

Posted at 6:44 PM, May 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-05 20:44:14-04

On Sunday, May 5, 2024 - “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day” - members of the Great Falls community gathered with the YWCA to recognize those they have lost and the individuals who are still missing.

According to Montana's MMIP reporting portal, Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing in Montana, and nearly 85 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical violence.

The event was held along the River's Edge trail on the east side of the Central Avenue (aka 1st Avenue North) bridge.

Jordann Lankford-Forster, indigenous education coach, said people often assume MMIP cases are only a “reservation problem” but that it really is an everyone and everywhere problem.

“YWCA put together this event; there were community members that were calling, asking if there was anything that was going to be put on this year, and the Y responded to the community request and planned this event for the National Day of Awareness for [MMIP],” said Lankford-Forster.

“The City of Great Falls was bringing awareness to the missing and murdered indigenous people. There is a Native American population here in Great Falls. I moved here nine years ago, and it's really touching and healing to know that the City of Great Falls, somebody, is doing something about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people,” said Susan Finley, member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribe.
Many of the individuals present have very personal ties to this cause and participate in events such as these to continue to spread awareness of the issue.

“My aunt was born at Fort Belknap Agency but lived in Great Falls with the rest of our family, and in 2011, she went missing in the middle of March. About two months later, her body was found just across the river, and oftentimes, people compartmentalize MMIP issues as only being a reservation problem, but this is an everywhere problem,” Lankford-Forster said.

Community members not only released petals into the river to remember those who have lost their lives, they also poured red sand into the cracked pavement to symbolize an important message.

“The red sand is placed in the cracks to represent we have to stop indigenous people from falling through the cracks. This is a conversation; this is a topic that people can't be silent on. That’s why you might also see the red hand prints to demonstrate that we have to speak out on this,” Lankford-Forster added.