#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

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#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

Kenny Still Smoking stands over the tombstone of his 7-year-old daughter, Monica, who disappeared from school in 1979 and was found frozen on a mountain, as he visits her grave on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont., on July 14. “I talk to her, let her know I’m doing OK, that I’m still kicking,” he said. “I think about her all the time.”

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

Kenny Still Smoking stands over the tombstone of his 7-year-old daughter, Monica, who disappeared from school in 1979 and was found frozen on a mountain, as he visits her grave on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont., on July 14. “I talk to her, let her know I’m doing OK, that I’m still kicking,” he said. “I think about her all the time.”

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

From left, Kimberly Loring, Staci Salois, Randy Ortiz, Lissa Loring and George A. Hall, look for clues under a trailer during a search in Valier, Mont., for the Lorings’ sister and cousin, Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, who went missing in 2017 from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, on July 11. Lissa says Ashley’s disappearance constantly weighs on her. “All that plays in my head is where do we look? Who’s going to tell us the next lead?”

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

Lissa Loring points Blackfeet law enforcement officers to a trailer in Valier, Mont., where she believes clues have been found during a search for her cousin, Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, who went missing last year from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. This search is motivated, in part, by the family’s disappointment with the reservation police force – a common sentiment for many relatives of missing Native Americans.

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

A photo of Ashley HeavyRunner Loring hangs on the wall as her sister, Kimberly, walks through her room at their grandmother’s home on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont., on July 13. Kimberly was 8 when she made a promise to Ashley, then 5, while the girls were briefly in a foster home. “‘We have to stick together,’” she’d said to her little sister. “I told her I would never leave her. And if she was going to go anywhere, I would find her.”

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

A missing poster for Ashley HeavyRunner Loring is posted on the entrance of a grocery store on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont.. At first, her relatives say, tribal police suggested Ashley was old enough to take off on her own. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal police headed up the initial investigation. The FBI later took over. BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling says 55 people have been interviewed and 38 searches conducted.

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?

Jenna Loring, left, the aunt of Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, cries with her cousin, Lissa Loring, during a traditional blanket dance before the crowd at the North American Indian Days celebration on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont., on July 14. The event was held to raise awareness and money for Ashley’s search. With just about 1,000 residents on the reservation, many people are related, and secrets have a way of spilling out. “There’s always somebody talking,” says Lissa, “and it seems like to us since she disappeared, everybody got quiet. I don’t know if they’re scared, but so are we. That’s why we need people to speak up.”
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