GREAT FALLS – On Thursday, red dresses were planted throughout the Great Falls community.
On Friday, red sand will be spread in front of local businesses.
“This weekend is a really powerful weekend,” Austin Hammatt said.
Hammatt is a volunteer for the Cascade County Human Trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force.
He’s just one of many spreading awareness of this issue across Montana.
The dresses represent missing and murdered indigenous women. There are over 1,500 planted in Great Falls.
“One is too many,” Hammatt said.
The red sand will represent the issue of human trafficking.
“It brings attention to a crack in the side walk which is kind of like something that is not well noticed most of the time. It’s like human trafficking. People slip through the cracks of society,” Hammatt said.
Hammatt says these efforts, by both the county’s task force and an organization known as Operation Underground Railroad, are an effort to spark a conversation.
“Ideally, we’ll get people to walk into a business and wonder what it is. They’ll be able to learn more for themselves on how to keep them and those they love safe,” Hammatt said.
Hammatt says it’s important to learn about these issues, even in small-town Montana.
“I think a lot of us are familiar with international things that happen. You hear a lot about that. Locally, there’s a lot more trafficking than we think. It’s a big problem. Not to mention that there are people who disappear in our local area, and it’s something that happens to anybody. We all have those around us that are more at risk, so being able to understand them and be able to help them is most important,” Hammatt said.
You can get involved by attending the Red Sand Project Friday at 11 a.m.
The group will meet at the steps of the Civic Center.
There will be opportunities to hear from speakers such as Mayor Bob Kelly, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter, representatives from the offices of Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, as well as officials from the event’s primary organizations.
This is the first time Great Falls has hosted a Red Sand Project.
“For me, I think it comes down to the love I have for my brothers and sisters. I definitely wouldn’t want anything to happen to my family and I definitely don’t want anything to happen to anybody else. I just feel this great love for people and this is just one of the ways I feel I can make a difference,” Hammatt said.
To learn more about the organizations, follow the links below:
- North Central Montana Human Trafficking and MMIP Task Force
- Montana Operation Underground Railroad Volunteer Team
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News