Film Brings to Light Issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

A film viewing and panel discussion was held Thursday evening at MSU-Billings. The film titled "When They Were Here" is about missing and murdered indigenous women. Two Montana filmmakers, who are also members of the Blackfeet/Shoshone tribe, created the short documentary. Ivan MacDonald and Ivy MacDonald directed and produced the 22 minute film, which was sponsored by the MSUB Women's and Gender Studies Center, with support from Zonta Club of Billings. The documentary is also part of "The Big Read" series.

Dr. Jennifer Lynn is an associate professor at the university and the Director of Women's and Gender Studies Center. She said she heard about the film through a friend. Dr. Lynn told KULR-8 that the Women's and Gender Studies Center is working in conjunction with the Zonta Club of Billings, "We are putting together a program of events and social media campaigns focusing on the issue of raising awareness and prevention of violence against women and girls, and this is one of those programs that's part of that series."

KULR-8 spoke with Ivy and Ivan at the event. The brother-sister duo said they started the film because the kidnappings and murders are an epidemic. With native women, the MacDonalds said the rates are extremely high. Ivy said it's great to shed a little light on the matter, "Unless you have someone that has had this happen to you, it's not known. It's something that is really disappointing and sad at the same time. Because native women matter. A lot of the times, it's swept under the rug in general." She said what she hopes people take away from the film is the importance of native voices.

Ivan said there is no real database of accurate numbers and that most of the numbers are kept on tribe to tribe basis. He said it's very hard to track ethnic numbers. Ivan said, "From our research in the last year, 30% of the women missing in the state of Montana are Native American." Ivan said because tribes are their own sovereign entities, it's hard to keep track of accurate numbers regarding missing native women. Ivan said they have sent a letter to Senator Tester about a possible database when it comes to missing indigenous women. "I would really like to see a database where you are able to accurately gage the number, because there's currently nothing now." Ivan explained that some databases have been created that are specific to tribes. Funding for those databases, according to Ivan, come from the Violence Against Women Act. He told KULR-8 that he hopes legislation will be passed to make a law to have a database for missing native women.

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