GREAT FALLS – Senator Jon Tester joined Montana This Morning Friday to discuss several issues impacting the state including the federal response to missing and murdered Indigenous women, the reintroduction of the Little Shell Restoration Act, and the ongoing government shutdown.
On Tuesday, Tester released a letter to the acting directors of the FBI and BIA stating the response to Henny Scott’s disappearance was inadequate and that she is not the first.
“Missing and murdered indigenous women is a huge issue and, for a 14-year-old girl who had great hopes and dreams of being a doctor, to wait 13 days after her disappearance was reported to get out there is a real problem,” Tester said.
Tester told MTN News that if the issue was happening anywhere else in the country, people would be up in arms. He added that many cases are never solved.
“If we’re going to find out what happened to these people and hold the perpetrators responsible, time is of the essence,” Tester said. “The FBI is a good outfit, the BIA is a good outfit, we just need to step it up.”
Tester said some improvements would be timeliness and better communication between law enforcement agencies themselves and between authorities and families.
On another topic, Tester recently joined fellow Senator Steve Daines in reintroducing the Little Shell Restoration Act in the Senate. The bill would grant the tribe federal recognition, give them access to resources including health care, education, and housing, and allow the tribe to purchase 200 acres of land to serve as a reservation.
The bill passed in the U.S. House during the last congressional session, however, it failed by one vote in the U.S. Senate.
“I think it’s time they get their recognition,” Tester said. “I think it’s long overdue. If in fact we can get the folks in Congress to step up and do their job, they’ll get their recognition.”
Senator Tester also addressed the ongoing partial government shutdown and its impacts on the state through agriculture, small business, and the economy. Tester called the shutdown “nothing short of ridiculous.”
“Let’s have the debate about whether the best way to secure the border is with a wall, but don’t shut down the government in the process,” he said.
The shutdown’s impact on the Farm Bill was also mentioned with Tester stating many farm agencies are not open to address farmers’ needs despite spring planting being just around the corner.
“We need to know information about that Farm Bill before you’re able to go to work,” he said.