Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced on Thursday the names of those appointed to the recently created missing indigenous persons task force.

Deputy Attorney General Melissa Schlichting is one of those named to the task force.

“The missing Indigenous persons task force was created through the passage of Senate Bill 312 in the 2019 Legislature,” said Schlichting. “The purpose is to specifically address and look at the issues surrounding missing indigenous persons in the state of Montana. The task force must include a member of the Montana Department of Justice who has expertise in the area of missing persons, and Attorney General Fox has appointed Jennifer Viets, who is the head of our Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse, a member of the Attorney General’s office, that’s myself, a member from the Montana Highway Patrol and that is Sergeant Derek Warner, and then a representative from each tribal government located on the seven Montana reservations and the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, and ask of today we have received an appointment from every one of the tribes.”

After applying for funding, Schlichting described some of the task force’s duties.

“The task force must identify jurisdictional barriers between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and community agencies and to work towards improving interagency communication and cooperation,” she said. “The first meeting of the task force is June 11 in Helena at the Delta Hotels. We plan on having a very robust first meeting where we plan to outline what the requirements are for the task force to report back to the legislature in 2021 and all of that will have to be done in the next year and a half.”

Schlichting said once the groundwork is laid, the task force will begin to fulfill its mission.

“One of the things this task force is going to have to look at is what is the scope of the current missing indigenous people in Montana,” she said. “That would include data analysis to see how many people currently are missing, both in our state clearinghouse working through the NCIC and the FBI and then working with each individual tribe to identify all of the missing people in Montana.”

According to the press release:

‘On June 12, the Montana DOJ and Montana’s U.S. Attorney’s Office will jointly hold a missing persons training at the same Helena location for law enforcement and the public.  Topics include how to report a missing person, the nexus between missing persons and human trafficking, and the use of missing persons alerts and advisories.  The training is free; online registration is available at www.dojmt.gov/mpt.  Law enforcement officers will receive POST credits for attending.  For more information, email dojmmiw@mt.gov or call DOJ’s Office of Victim Services at 1-800-498-6455 or (406) 444-3653.’