Today we can celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with other Americans throughout the nation, a day to honor our Native American communities and cultures. Montana is home to eight Tribes with over 69,000 Tribal Members, according to the 2016 Census. These Tribal Nations are rich in history and culture. Unfortunately, Native Americans, especially women and children, experience violent crime at rates significantly higher than other American women and children.
Native Americans in Montana are nearly 4 times more likely to be murdered than the general population. The reason for this increased rate is not clear. Native American women are especially at risk — at times 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans according to a study for the U.S. Department of Justice and 2.5 times more likely to be raped according to a 2016 National Institute of Justice study.
This is a Montana problem — not just a Native American problem. More than two-thirds of sexual assaults against indigenous women are committed by non-Native American people according to one study by the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina similar to findings from a 2016 U.S. Department of Justice Report. The survivors may not see justice because if a non-Native individual is the perpetrator of the violence, he can fall outside the jurisdiction of tribal or local law enforcement — leading to a failure of the legal system to be able to hold him accountable. Confusion about how different legal jurisdictions (local, tribal, state, and federal) work together can also hinder timely and effective response. The effects of this violence is not confined to reservations — it has ripple effects and resulting costs throughout the state that can last for years and affect multiple generations.
As a domestic violence advocate, nurse, prosecutor, and legislator, I have seen the hidden violence too many in our communities face and that they are crying out for help and change. I am ready to provide that leadership and change. I am running for Attorney General because I believe we can, and must, do more.
I am thankful for the leadership Indigenous people, especially Indigenous women, have been providing on this issue. We took one step forward to stop this violence this year when I worked alongside other legislators to pass Hanna’s Act, carried by Rep. Rae Peppers and named in honor of Hanna Harris. Hanna was missing for several days before being found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013. Hanna’s Act improves the investigation of missing persons and, along with other legal changes, can hopefully save lives. The improvements made include:
- Establishment of a missing Indigenous persons task force to help remove jurisdictional barriers and improve investigation of missing indigenous persons
- Creation of a missing persons specialist position within the Department of Justice to specialize in missing persons crimes
- Clarification that all law enforcement authorities must report missing children to the missing child information program to help find them.
But more must be done. I am running for Attorney General to provide statewide leadership on issues of violence that for too long have been insufficiently addressed. I will elevate the conversation surrounding tribal justice issues, especially violence against women and children. We must identify the underlying causes of increased violence against Montana’s Tribal Members and then implement a comprehensive plan with our Tribal Nations to effectively address criminal justice and violence-related issues.
Together we are building a movement that creates a safer Montana for everyone by fighting for a more equal Montana and addressing problems that have been ignored for far too long. It is long past time Montanans at all levels come together to help solve the issues our Tribal Nations are facing so that together we ensure safety for all Montanans. The time to act is now.
Member Montana House of Representatives
Kimberly Dudik has served the people of Montana as a registered nurse specializing in neonatal intensive care, a Deputy Gallatin County Attorney, and an Assistant Montana Attorney General. She is Chairperson for the Legislative Finance Committee, Chairperson for the Council of State Governments West, and Immediate Past Chairwoman of the National Foundation for Women Legislators. She is a Democratic Candidate for Montana Attorney General.
Paid for by Friends of Kimberly Dudik, P.O. Box 674, Frenchtown, MT 59834, Kelly Gallinger (Billings), Treasurer — Democrat