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Curyung Tribe finalizing action plan to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons epidemic

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Curyung Tribe Second Chief J.J Larson and the council spent most of the year working on their action plan to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons epidemic in the region. Larson expects to adopt it at a meeting June 8.

“That was really amazing to get through that and get introduced to law enforcement and other entities across the state," Larson said. "Once we adopt the plan, there’s still going to be lots of work to do.”

Ingrid Cumberlidge is the MMIP Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska. She said the plan focuses on the role of law enforcement and the media, and holds those entities accountable.

“Working with law enforcement and developing and understanding the resources and response available," Cumberlidge said. "Media, I know they worked with you guys and really wanted the media to be responsible, and making sure families were notified before things happened.”

KDLG participated in a workshop with the Tribe and members of the pilot project in January, to answer questions and discuss expectations for MMIP coverage.

The action plan also focuses on search and rescue resources. Cumberlidge emphasized the importance of coordinating responses when someone goes missing. She says local entities in Dillingham, like the SAFE Domestic Violence Shelter and the Bristol Bay Native Association helped with that effort.

“As soon as anything is suspected of happening somebody has gone missing, that they’re going to call 911. Those first few hours are so critical.”

Larson also shared how people can get involved at the local level. He says the Tribe, the SAFE Domestic Violence Shelter, and the Bristol Bay Native Association are great resources to find out how to help.

“Volunteer for search and rescue when that comes up," Larson said. "When there are these instances where we have search and rescue, you don’t have to be out in the field searching. There’s people that are making sure there’s food available to the searchers. There’s a lot of things you can do locally that doesn’t seem like much, but it is.”

The working group says that people can help organize MMIP outreach events. Members of the community should practice precautions and preventive measures so they are prepared if someone goes missing. Cumberlidge said when people travel, they should update their families in case something happens.

“Having safe travel, giving itinerary and having alternative plans," Cumberlidge said. "For instance: If you lose your resources; travel didn’t work out; making sure that you provide a current picture for your family. And that they know where you’re going to be.”

Parents should also talk to their kids about online gaming and the dangers of interacting with strangers on the internet. Kids should not share any personal information such as age or location online. Cumberlidge talked about this with her son. 

“And he says, ‘hey mom, I’m playing with someone from Australia.’ Well, I don’t know anyone from Australia. Great country, but I don’t know anybody from there which means he’s talking to a total stranger," Cumerlidge said. "I have no idea if that person is in Australia or who they say they are. Parents, schools and individuals trusted in the community to really work with developing these conversations children and keeping them safe in social media.”

Cumberlidge and folks from the MMIP pilot project will travel June 8 to Dillingham  for the Curyung Tribe’s adoption of the action plan. The Native Village of Unalakleet and the Koyukuk Native Village will also finish their plans soon.

If someone you know may be missing or murdered, contact your local state troopers office as soon as possible to begin an investigation. Resources for people impacted by MMIP can be found on the Association of American Indian Affairs website.

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