(GREAT FALLS) A rally to raise awareness for human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous women was held in Great Falls Friday.
Mayor Bob Kelly proclaimed May 3 through May 5 as a weekend to honor the Red Sand Project and missing and murdered indigenous people (MMIP).
Advocate Brandon Fish spoke at the rally and says this issue hits home for him.
“I’m passionate about this because of the people. The injustices that we all face when addressing this issue: the lack of media, the lack of a follow up with all these stories, the cover-up with what these indigenous justices have entailed with the government,” Fish said.
Fish is from Browning and graduated with Ashley Loring Heavyrunner, the 20-year-old who disappeared from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation over a year ago.
“I didn’t realize the importance of what we face until I went through that event. Not only that but I faced insensitive language that was used on several trips through my course of study,” Fish said.
Fish says he has witnessed injustice and racism from not just her case but also many others.
“It makes me really sad. It makes me really sad because somebody knows. Somebody knows something. People just aren’t that ignorant to the issues. The fact that it’s still continuing on, to me this movement is growing into all communities throughout Montana and the United States and Canada,” Fish said.
He says MMIP and human trafficking go hand in hand.
“People in Montana should care because we are all connected in our community. When we can bridge our relationships with each other then we can strengthen our awareness on how we can address these issues,” Fish said.
Red sand was dispersed throughout downtown Great Falls.
It’s placed in the cracks in front of businesses to represent those who have fallen through the cracks of communities and into human trafficking.
“This isn’t something new that has happened over night. This is something that has been happening for decades,” Fish said. “Human trafficking it hits home to where you know it causes a series of traumatic triggers and trauma that we all face.”
Fish is a University of Missoula student who advocates for these issues on campus.
“I’m a founder of a group called the Montana students for equality initiative. That raises awareness for language and the use of derogatory and education that is being taught at our institutions,” Fish said.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News