Blackfeet Community College played host to a pair of related events last week, be-ginning with a two-day Tribunal that gathered testimonies on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the Southwind Lodge, and continuing the first day with an informational seminar on Human Trafficking in the Student Commons.
Belinda Bullshoe was the emcee at the former event, and she made a point of al-ways referring to the movement as MMIWM to include men as victims as well. Chief Earl Old Person and Chairman Tim Davis both welcomed the panel and spoke about the issue facing Indian Country. Judy Wilson, Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and Minnie Kenoras from British Columbia both spoke about their concerns north of the border and presented a Talking Stick to the Blackfeet which will be displayed at BCC.
The event is the first such Tribunal held in the United States, and the purpose is to gather stories from people that illustrate the issue with Native people being killed and going missing with little having been done to solve the mysteries surrounding them. Testimonies were gathered over Friday and Saturday and included both public statements as well as private testimony.
One of those testifying was Rhonda Grant, whose nephew, Matthew Grant, was killed with no one held accountable. She offered this written testimony to the panel.
“Yesterday I attended an event for MMIW. I had the honor to speak on behalf of my nephew. What I said I hope I didn’t offend some of the ladies that lost a loved one. This is what I presented,” she wrote.
“In December 2016 Matthew Grant was tragically taken from us. He had just turned 21 years old in October. Matthew was from Hobbima, Alberta, Canada. On October 2015 he wanted to move to Browning to join his late father Ray Grant’s family in Montana. Matthew was seeking a better life.
“My nephew Matthew Grant went missing December 15th, 2016. Our family and friends searched for two weeks with little help from the authorities in Browning. We also requested help from the Glacier County Search and Rescue; they also declined because they don’t have jurisdiction on the reservation. We requested help from the sheriff’s department; they also do not have jurisdiction on the reservation.
“We are now on our third FBI. I mentioned to Special Agent Scown, who is now handling Matthew’s case, I feel like we are not getting anywhere; every time we have a new FBI assigned to his case, I feel like we are starting all over and not getting anywhere.
“It was exhausting for our family searching in weather -20s and 30s, snowing and blowing, without proper clothing and equipment. After a week and a half, Diana Burd and Belinda Bullshoe helped organized a search party that involved more people.
“He was brutally murdered and thrown in an alley in a housing project. I still do not understand why no one saw anything. Prior to that I do not know how long he was alive and where they kept him for two weeks. That night changed all of our lives forever.
“Whenever we hold a vigil or walk, the Lorings and myself invite one another. It is not because of indigenous women and men; it is because we want to find justice for our loved ones, Matthew and Ashley.
“It never crossed my mind or made a difference to me until in one of our walks a group joined us and I asked them if they would include Matthew on their board. Their response: “Oh no; this is for women only.” I could not believe what I heard. I thought, wow! My nephew being a man made him less of a person, adding to the insult of his vicious murder that had taken him away from his family way too soon, and never getting to see his unborn baby, “Matthew Jr.”
“I thought to myself, from now on I am not going to be prejudiced. We should not have a line between the murdered missing men and women. They all matter.
Men are no different. They also bleed, cry and face fear. Can you imagine what was going through my nephew’s mind while they were beating him? And whatever else they done to him.
“There are several missing and murdered men, but they all go unrecognized because they are always viewed as the aggressor which is not always true. Not all men are the same; they are just as vulnerable as women.
“We also need our young boys and men represented and included as Missing, Murdered and Indigenous Men. They now have a national helpline for men and boys who are victims of domestic abuse. It has been launched by the Waterford Group Men’s Development Network.
“Don’t get me wrong; I meet a lot of beautiful ladies that lost a sister, daughter, granddaughter or mother who are with the group Missing, Murdered and Indigenous Women. I know these ladies will join and support me, just as I stand and support them.
“Until then I pray we all find justice. It will now be two years and 10 months since my nephew’s murder. We will not give up! There is a $10,000 reward being offered for information on the murder of our nephew. So, someone, please come forward.
The dead can’t cry out for justice; it is up to the living to do so for them.”
Ms. Grant’s story joined that of many others, creating a collection of information that many hope will lead to a brighter day for Native women and men.