Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Interviews w/ Filmmakers & supporters
“Wind River, Finding Dawn and many other films have chronicled the plight of MMIW. The upcoming documentary "When They were Here" will be the latest to document the plight of Indigenous Women and the movement that brought national attention to this pressing issue.”
The winter after Ashley Loring-HeavyRunner went missing, her sister Kimberly moved back to the Blackfeet Reservation to find her. A group of students at Blackfeet Community College, including myself banded together to help with the search. At that point the people here were reluctant to report crimes, victims of abduction attempts were afraid to go on camera to tell their stories, and Ashley's case was especially problematic because of the way it was handled.
So a handful of us walked south from Babb, Montana. We went door to door and questioned people about Ashley's whereabouts. This turned over information we believed to be vital to the investigation. Also, the actions of Kimberly Loring (Ashley's sister) inspired others to stand up for themselves.
In addition, many saw Ashley as merely an addict. The reckoning that her life was as important as any other came to our group as we captured video in hopes of organizing a search for Ashley's body. A quote from one of our crew really moved me, "I first want to apologize for not standing up sooner. I can not standby and be silent anymore. So please help our sister Kimberly Loring find justice."
Kimberly took her fight all the way to D.C. as Ashley became the face of the MMIW movement. Here's the day she addressed the Senate committee.
Around the same time, University of Montana film graduate and Blackfeet member, Ivan McDonald began to chronicle MMIW stories with his sister Ivey. The two recently were awarded funding to finish a feature documentary, "When They Were Here".
Wind River, Finding Dawn and many other films have chronicled the plight of MMIW. The upcoming documentary "When They were Here" is the latest to document the plight of Indigenous Women and the movement that brought national attention to this pressing issue.
Jennifer Whitebear talks about the loss of her daughter Bonnie Three Irons in footage from, "When They Were Here", an upcoming film by Ivan & Ivy McDonald.
As these stories were told and understood, legislation protecting indigenous communities came to life. This initiative is a result of national legislation drafted by John Tester and the testimony of Kimberly Loring. The grant that allowed this site to be built is a result of state legislation drafted by Senator Jason Small (Busby, Northern Cheyenne) creating the Montana Looping in Native Communities Act. This site will continue to highlight community members that make it easier to report missing persons cases. Our goal is to pass on the support structure we began to build the winter after Ashely went missing.
Most importantly, the fear that was lingering over the Blackfeet Nation when we started this work has settled. Stories like these are no longer hidden in the shadows. People are speaking up, not only about their loved ones, but the fight against addiction and trauma that has impacted Native American communities for generations.