Salish Kootenai College host successful MMIP conference

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MELINDA HARRIS, Hanna Harris’s mother, Limberhand speaks to a crowd of people at Missing, Murdered, and Indigenous People conference at Salish Kootenai College Thursday afternoon about her experience. Harris’s daughter, Hanna Harris, was killed in 2013 outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. (Photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

The Human Trafficking and the Missing, Murdered and Indigenous people conference hosted a successful conference panel at the Salish Kootenai College August 28-30.

The event, co-organized by Jami Pluff and Shelly Fyant, included multiple panels with educated panelists informing the general public about human trafficking.

Fyant said she felt the event was eye-opening, not just for her, but also for the public.

“I think (the event) was eye-opening from my perspective, and I’ve researched MMIP, and everyone learned so much about human trafficking,” Fyant said. “I guess hearing from the survivors was huge for me. Some of the vulnerable population predators identify includes foster kids and homeless people. The panel was all eye-opening for me.”

One point of emphasis analyzed during the conference was human trafficking, which is interrelated to various other forms of crime, knows no socio-economic background, Fyant said.

“This problem has no race or ethnicity, lots of socio-economic lines are crossed and it’s alarming,” Fyant said. “I learned that their immediate family member traffics over 36% of victims. Some of these people are trafficked for immediate drugs or debts, and it’s heartbreaking to me. I can’t even imagine trafficking a family member, but when you are in that addiction mode, sometimes the lines of normalcy fade away.”

The connection to human trafficking is deeply embedded in the illegal drug industry.

“It’s an industry that is connected to the opioid industry, and meth and heroin use, and we know it all occurs in our community,” Fyant said. “It is a nation-wide problem. We must address the problem, and try to look upstream. Not just treat the problem, but try to identify the causes.”

The panel addressed how to safeguard yourself from potential predators and to become hyper-vigilant of prospective predators.

Among the most famous panelist was Melinda Harris, whose daughter Hanna Harris, was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in July of 2013, according to the Helena Independent Record.

After the bill passed the House unanimously, the Senate Judiciary committee first tabled it and then brought it back for amendments that stripped $100,000 in funding for the position and the language that required the Department of Justice to create the position, The Record article stated.

“The secondary trauma experienced after reopening old wounds, and the reaction and non-reaction of local law enforcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming was an eye-opener for me,” Fyant said. “There are huge myths out there that you have to wait 48 hours to report something, but that is not true. We know if a person goes missing, it will go in the missing person’s report from the family and law enforcement will immediately start looking.”

The panel addressed how to be aware of the dangers of social media.

“Posting where you are going on social media is just not cool these days,” Fyant said. “I never post where I am going, and it’s sad that is the type of society we live in. It’s getting harder and harder to trust.”

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