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‘Murder in Big Horn’ looks at Montana’s MMIW

MMIW cases in Big Horn County have gotten increased attention recently. (Jeff Hutchens for Showtime)

Big Horn County in Montana is known as a U.S. hotbed for missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) – the subject of a new, three-episode documentary series “Murder in Big Horn” premiering Feb. 3 on Showtime.

The documentary investigates the disappearances and possible murders of young women and girls from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations who have gone missing from Big Horn County and its surrounding areas. Some are found dead while others remain missing.

“Murder in Big Horn” looks closely at the cases of Henny Scott, 14, in 2018; Shacaiah Harding, 20, also in 2018; Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, 18, in 2019; and Selena Not Afraid, 16, in 2020. Each young woman’s disappearance fits a similar pattern, which the filmmakers explore in detail.

Hypothermia is blamed when Scott is discovered, while the cause of Stops Pretty Places’ death is “undetermined.” But when Not Afraid goes missing, the local and national reaction is unprecedented.

The creation of an MMIW documentary by a major media company (CBS Corp. owns Showtime) is itself notable. The MMIW movement hasn’t traditionally received much attention from Hollywood, the national media, by law enforcement or by lawmakers, however there’s been some progress in recent years. More focus has come at the federal level through Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), who helms the Department of Interior. Her office launched a series of MMIW initiatives with the help of the Department of Justice and other agencies. Some state governments across the U.S. have also taken steps to address the issue.

The cases in “Murder in Big Horn” are examined through the perspective of the girls’ families, local Native journalist Luella Brien (Crow), local law enforcement and others.  

“What emerges is a powerful portrait of tribal members and their community battling an epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women that was set in motion almost 200 years ago,” the filmmakers said in a recent news release.

But as the filmmakers note, arrests are rare in MMIW cases and convictions are rarer still.

“When grieving Native families press law enforcement for answers, they are met with either indifference or silence,” the release said. “Elsewhere in America, these crimes would have shocked a community and the nation. But outside of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, it barely registers, leaving a bereft circle of family, friends and activists on their own, fighting for justice.”

“Murder in Big Horn” doesn’t flinch from placing responsibility for the problem on the media, law enforcement, the courts, the cumulative trauma of colonization and Indian boarding schools, and sometimes on Natives themselves.

The journalist, Brien, is familiar with all the cases and investigates the circumstances of what happened to Stops Pretty Places.

“Pre-colonization, violence against Native women was not tolerated,” Brien says in the documentary. “Our communities, our tribes, held perpetrators accountable and in the very few instances when it did happen, it was addressed. Because women are the backbone of our communities, their safety forms the foundation for the safety of our communities.”

“Murder in Big Horn” is directed by Razelle Benally (Oglala Lakota/Diné) and Matthew Galkin. More information is available at and at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center at

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at