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Last week, our book club discussed Debra Magpie Earling’s "Perma Red," recently named Montana’s best-loved novel. It is a beautifully written story about Louise White Elk, a teenage girl whose character is based on the author’s aunt, who grew up on the Flathead Reservation in the 1940s.

Louise struggles to escape a life of violence, sorrow and limited choices. The ending is unexpectedly hopeful, contrary to the real-life murder of the author’s aunt.

Murder is the third-leading cause of death among indigenous women and the rates of violence on reservations can be up to 10 times the national average.

Last week, the Montana Legislature heard testimony about Hanna’s Act (House Bill 21) and House Bill 54, which would provide direction and support for law enforcement and the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and children.

Just as Louise steps forward in the last line of the novel, we must step up and demand a change to this legacy of violence against women. Please contact your state legislators and ask them to support these bills. It’s a first step forward.

Kim Davitt,

Sarah McMillan,


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