Across America, there are issues of hate crimes and violence against non-white citizens. For indigenous communities, there has been a full epidemic of violence against women. A new documentary series, Murder in Big Horn seeks to draw attention to rising rates of death and disappearance in Big Horn County, Montana. From directors Razelle Benally and Matthew Galkin, the docu-series draws most of its interviews from those most affected by the violence in the indigenous community.
The last ten years have been challenging for the Crow and Chayanne Nations of Montana. During this time, the rates of murder, kidnapping, and human trafficking have risen against their women. In Big Horn County, girls are being hunted and abused. It is difficult to be safe when local law enforcement does not care. Kidnappings and the killing of non-indigenous women create national headlines. Indigenous women rarely see their stories leave any impression. Recent murders of girls Selena Not Afraid and Kaysera Stops Pretty Places began a grassroots movement to stop the killings of girls within these communities.
Benally and Galkin spend their time ensuring the audiences care about these women. The names stick with you long after the documentary has finished. Women like Selena Not Afraid, Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, and Henny Scott are preventable. Benally and Galkin first ensure we know these extraordinary women. Providing first-hand accounts from friends and family helps us to understand how important they were to the community.
Building these inroads also helped additional victims come forward. One interview comes from a friend of a victim who was present the night she disappears. The harrowing account reminds the audience this is not a one-off instance and could have happened to any of the girls present. It also reveals a devasting truth: the victims may only be attack and killed because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Making matters worse, there’s corruption from within the community. It’s a stark reminder that in these fights, there are issues of engrained self-hatred and toxic masculinity taught by ideological state apparatus from a young age. It’s nearly impossible to fight against systems that stack the deck against you. When those who should provide you support are the perpetrators, our power wanes.
Over the course of the three episodes, Benally and Galkin educate the audience about these women. This helps us understand the crimes committed against them are often crimes of opportunity. Yet, there’s a prevalence to these issues that extends beyond tribal communities. Systemic forces from the federal government have ensured little work is done to save indigenous women. Stories like Murder in Big Horn are preventable. We need to hold each other accountable and become allies for these communities. If this does not change, the epidemic will not end.