“When They Were Here” documentary examines missing and murdered indigenous women

Posted at 8:13 PM, Jul 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 23:21:36-04

GREAT FALLS – Two Blackfeet/Shoshone filmmakers are making a documentary about the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

They have traveled across Montana and already hosted free screenings of their film, "When They Were Here."

However, the brother and sister team are not stopping there.

"It actually started as a school project that I had while I was in graduate school," Ivan MacDonald said.

He added that the project was based around community engagement. His group thought about doing a piece on suicide prevention but soon the project headed in a different direction.

"One of the girls that was in our group brought to our attention that a girl was missing on the Crow Reservation where she is from," Ivan said. "And we have our own family history with it."

Ivan enlisted his sister Ivy MacDonald to help the group shoot the short documentary.

"We always grew up wanting to make a film together and so it just kind of gradually went," Ivy said. "I was in the film program so we were like, 'Let's do this.'"

For Ivan and Ivy, the documentary is a personal story that hits close to home.

"We interviewed my uncle Kenny Still Smoking and my aunt Carol," Ivan said. "Our cousin Monica Still Smoking was kidnapped and murdered when she was seven or eight years old right here from the Blackfeet Reservation."

The siblings realized the best way to educate non-Native individuals was through film and other media platforms.

As they travel across Montana presenting "When They Were Here," they said the most fulfilling part is the question and answer portion.

"To finally be able to let people know that we matter and that we are here, it is a good thing," Ivy said.

Through their work, they have found some of the issues concern the justice system on tribal lands.

"These women fall through the cracks because so many of those jurisdictional issues come into play," Ivan said. "Even if families seek justice, they won't often find it."