BILLINGS — Two organizations made sure the lives of missing and murdered indigenous people remain in the spotlight with a march through downtown Billings Sunday.
Participants wore red in support of those who are gone but never forgotten.
“Probably everybody on every reservation has somebody that’s been affected by missing or murdered,” said Crow tribe member Tiara Medicine Crow.
Medicine Crow’s cousin, Hub Williamson, has been missing since 2019. Her six-year-old niece, Milly Alexis Old Crow, was missing for two years before her body was found on the Crow Reservation in 2021.
“There’s so many in our families that are affected by this,” Medicine Crow said.
Medicine Crow was one of over 200 people who marched from the Wise Wonders Discovery Museum to Skypoint in support of missing and murdered indigenous people.
The march was organized by the Montana Native Women’s Coalition and the Zonta Club of Billings. Jean Bear Crane is the executive director of the coalition and a member of the Crow tribe.
“I think that having grassroots movements are very, very important because these are the people that are directly impacted,” Bear Crane said.
Anna Schmitt is a member of the Zonta Club of Billings. She says awareness is key when it comes to solving the issue.
“If people don’t know, how are you going to address the problem?” Schmitt asked.
Marches like these are helping. The percentage of missing indigenous people has gone down.
“The percentage of missing indigenous persons decreased from 30% to 26%, so it’s a small victory," said Ellie Bundy, presiding officer of Montana’s Missing Indigenous Person’s Task Force. "We’re at 146 missing and 26% make up indigenous population."
For many families, however, justice is not often served.
Valerie Falls Down is the Crow reservation representative for the state MMIP task force.
“To highlight this issue would bring some justice to some of the families that justice is needed,” Falls Down said.
For Medicine Crow, whose family has lost so many loved ones, she hopes the spread of awareness will continue.
“I see my cousin’s mom and sister talk about how much they miss Hub,” Medicine Crow said.
She hopes that those affected can heal.
“I pray that justice does play out and things get done,” Medicine Crow said.
To learn more about the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, visit Montana Native Women’s Coalition | NIWRC.
To learn more about the Zonta Club of Billings, visit Home | Zonta Billings (billingszonta.org).