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CSKT Tribal council members speak out about the importance of remembering those missing

Jermain Charlo
Posted at 10:52 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 12:52:03-05

PABLO — It will be three years in June since Jermain Charlo, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), went missing from Missoula.

Charlo is one of many Indigenous people who have disappeared in Montana.

Indigenous people are four times as likely to go missing in the state of Montana, according to the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force.

It's a crisis that has organizations such as The Lifeguard Group in Missoula calling for people to act.

“People don't just disappear something is going on and we have to find an answer we must find an answer and for us to somehow push it aside and act like it's not our problem is ignorant and it's irresponsible,” said Lifeguard Group executive director Lowell Hochhalter.

Data from the Department of Justice in 2019 shows that Indigenous people made up 33% of all missing cases. CSKT Tribal Council chairwoman Shelly Fyant says this is not just a tribal issue.

“It doesn't only affect native people, it affects us at a higher rate but it's just not something we can turn a blind eye to," said Fyant.

Chairwoman Fyant says the tribe's youth have been educated but are also fearing for the worst, "and they are wondering am I next?"

CSKT councilwoman Ellie Bundy says due to the cases of human trafficking in Montana, the tribe is left to wonder if Jermain Charlo has fallen victim to the growing problem.

“Could she be somewhere else in the country being trafficked we don't know and that's scary and huge,” said Bundy.

The crisis has already spurred tribe's to take action. In October, Blackfeet Community College and the state task force launched a Missing Indigenous Persons Reporting Portal to serve as a "go-between" for those reporting and all levels of law enforcement.

You can visit that portal here for more information.