Home Organization Local Billings will raise awareness of MMIP through a downtown march

Local Billings will raise awareness of MMIP through a downtown march

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BILLINGS – Hundreds of natives go missing in Montana every year, and it often goes unnoticed. A local group is trying to change that by organizing a march through downtown Billings later this month.

For Rose Harris, May 5 has enormous significance. It’s National Awareness Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in honor of her sister’s birthday.

Hanna Harris was murdered in 2013.

Harris family

“She was murdered here on the northern Cheyenne reservation,” Harris said.

She spent years fighting to ensure that Hanna’s killer was charged with her sister’s death. Hanna’s body was found near the rodeo grounds on the northern Cheyenne reservation.

Her killer, Eugenia Rowland was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Rose.

“We got justice because we had to go out and do it all ourselves, instead of the cops doing what they were supposed to do,” Harris said.

Hanna’s story is sadly all too familiar, but a local organization, the Zonta Group of Billings, is doing everything it can to raise awareness.

“The Zonta Club of Billings is an advocacy group for the rights of women and girls,” said club president Suzie DeBar.

The Billings Chapter, which has been around since 1950, highlights issues such as human trafficking, domestic violence, and missing and murdered Indigenous peoples.

“We need to find a solution and recognize that there are issues with the system and fix those issues, and we can only do that as a community,” said Renee Coppock, registration secretary for the Zonta Club of Billings.

On May 15, they are hosting an MMIP walk that will start at the Wise Wonders Museum and end in downtown Skypoint.

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Billings Zonta Club

“There will be drummers, there will be traditional native dancers. We’ll have a prayer from an elder and then we’ll have speakers narrating what’s happening at different levels of government, what’s happening in the tribes,” Coppock said.

The walk is not only educational, but will incorporate real stories.

“We will hear from people telling us how the issue has impacted their lives,” Coppock said.

Stories that resemble that of the Harris sisters, where cases often fall through the cracks of the system.

“Families getting justice, that’s not a lot of justice,” Harris said.

If you would like to donate to the Zonta Club of Billings cause, visit this link. If you want more information about the MMIP fashion show, visit their Facebook page here.