Story by Rich Wilkins
AG Bill Barr visited Pablo Montana today to meet with the Tribal Council at the Flathead Reservation to discuss the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons (MMIP). At the start of the meeting all the Tribal Council members introduced themselves and welcomed AG Barr and the Chief Councilor outlined the history and some statistics on the MMIP issue most notedly that the indigenous population of Montana only constitutes 7% of the population yet 30% of all homicides and missing persons cases involve indigenous people.
AG Barr outlined what he described as a three pronged initiative to work directly with local law enforcement agencies to directly address this problem. These points are outlined as shown below.
- Increase the manpower, hiring additional resources, in the US attorney offices in 11 states, including Montana, Washington and others. These additional resources will be there to facilitate more direct communication and improve response time between Federal and local law enforcement resources.
- Establish FBI “quick response” teams , including comprehensive data analysis, designed to address problems of this nature on reservations.
- Establish more direct channels of communication between Federal and local law enforcement agencies and foster better coordination between agencies, this would be facilitated by the additional personnel described in item 1 above.
AG Barr also emphasized that special attention would be paid to all cases involving children. He also noted that he had spoken directly with President Trump about the issue of MMIP and that the President had said he was aware of the problem and that there were other “additional measures” that could be taken to address the problem. AG Barr also noted that these steps will NOT be all inclusive and that additional steps can be taken to adapt and adjust the plan in order to fully address this problem and see that our communities, and especially our children, are protected from harm.
After AG Barr was finished with his remarks the tribal Elders brought him to the front of the atrium and presented him with a ceremonial blanket. Upon this happening, all present were treated to a native drum song. Unfortunately, many like myself present do not know the native languages, however I felt like the song was one of peace, brotherhood and unity. Following this, one of the tribal elders (pictured to the right of AG Barr in photo) shared a short speech with us. He spoke about the history of the tribe and how in 1805 Louis and Clark’s expedition had come to their tribal lands. At first, they did not know how to handle this interaction with these outsiders, and they considered attacking them, fearful of what these outsiders might mean for the future of their people. However eventually they decided to welcome the outsiders as brothers and presented them with blankets to help protect them from the cold. In presenting AG Barr with this ceremonial blanket (pictured below) they are expressing their desire to continue working with those outside the tribe in trying to work toward a safer, more peaceful community. “For we all need to unify together as one people, under God, to address these issues and live in peace and harmony with security for our communities.”
In this season of Thanksgiving, what could be more uplifting than the coming together of peoples, just as in the time of the Pilgrims, in the spirit of peace and unity with a mind to the security of our communities and especially our children.