The issue of missing Native American women from Montana has provoked research by the Department of Justice that could lead to changes in the next legislative session. According to Montana Missing Persons Clearing House Manager Jennifer Viets, a close study of state statistics on September 20 showed Native American Women were missing at a disturbingly high rate.

"We had 136 missing individuals in Montana on September 20, and 30 of them were Native American,"Viets said. On the female side we had 16 missing Native American females on that day, which is 28 percent of our missing females in the state. Considering that the Native American population isn't 28 percent of the state, there is a concern that they have an elevated percentage of missing."

Native Americans are believed to be at under seven percent of the state population all together, so the number of missing individuals in that population is very high. Another issue that has been discussed is the high frequency of repeated runaways among the juvenile population.

"In 2017, the statistics show that we had 19 Native American juveniles that went missing three times in the same year, that were reported missing by law enforcement as missing three or more times and that is very concerning," Viets said. "We want to know where they are going, why they are going and they are not necessarily being cared for if they aren't home where they should be. We are trying to find out what resources we need in this study to try to stop that runaway behavior."

Of course there are no easy answers for this difficult problem, but one piece of legislation currently under consideration is for the first agency that receives word of a missing person to be a required reporter to the missing person’s database. The hope here is to speed up the search for a missing person. Another piece of legislation would bring about a study to address the repeat runaway situation.

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