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Red Lodge High supporting Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples was powerful for me. A grand thank you to Red Lodge High for their support.

It's a huge win to gain a sense of solidarity with white locals for two reasons. First, perhaps this is the start of a cowboys and Indians reconciliation period where we can heal historical trauma and improve race relations. Secondly, maybe we as united Montanans can finally work together to resolve the systemic racism which enables part of MMIP.

A contributing factor to MMIP is poor race relations between indigenous and white people. Each race copes with its own set of struggles; however, indigenous people cope with a statistically proven higher frequency of disparities proliferated by reservation jurisdiction issues which are held in place by systemic racism.

Indigenous people need white advocates holding legislators accountable and tasking them to work towards solutions to fix these centuries old jurisdiction issues. Reservation law enforcement agencies have botched MMIP investigations for decades and their efficacy on reservation is unacceptably substandard.

MMIP is a symptom of systemic racism that affects Billings in various ways like chronic inebriation, the foster care system, overcrowded jails, etc. A person may not be racist, but systemic racism affects us all. If we want to avoid increased costs like a safety mill levy, we have to work together to address the many issues that cause MMIP.

It's a challenge, but Red Lodge lifted my spirits. There's hope for healing and reconciliation yet.

Charlene Sleeper


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