University Relations and Communications


October 31, 2017


an indigenous woman looking out across a lake

Photo courtesy of Ivan MacDonald


When They Were Here Film Viewing Nov. 9 at MSU Billings

MSUB Women’s and Gender Studies presents film viewing and panel discussion on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women



University Relations and Communications, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — A film viewing and panel discussion on When They Were Here will be held Thursday, Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at MSU Billings (Liberal Arts Building, 205). This event is free and open to the public.


Two Montana filmmakers will present a documentary short film on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. The directors and executive producers, Ivan MacDonald and Ivy MacDonald, members of the Blackfeet/Shoshone tribe, will be joined by Reno Charette, Director of the MSUB Native American Achievement Center, and Nicole Walksalong for a panel discussion following the film. The film is sponsored by the MSUB Women’s and Gender Studies Center, with support from Zonta Club of Billings, and is part of “The Big Read” series.


Ivan MacDonald, currently a graduate student at the University of Montana, notes, “It is our focus with the film to have indigenous people discuss the topic from their own frame of reference. The interviews are first person narratives and give families the opportunity to remember the individual as they were, when they were here. We have also partnered with other community members who have educated and raised awareness for the issue, such as Marita Growing Thunder, and author Debra Magpie Earling.” MacDonald is a member of the state of Montana Native Youth Suicide Reduction Coalition, which drafted legislation to address the issue. He is also a researcher with the University of Montana and the Montana ACLU and is currently conducting research at the Montana Women's Prison in Billings, regarding Native American women.


The co-director and cinematographer, Ivy MacDonald, is a recent graduate from the University of Montana who earned her BFA in Digital Filmmaking. She will also be part of the panel discussion. Also in attendance will be Erin Birdinground (Crow) and Laura Wathen. They were both production assistants and researchers, and Erin and her daughters appear in the film.


The panel participants are joined by Nicole Walksalong, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, who was also featured in the film. Walksalong became involved in the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women when her own mother, Lonette Keehner was murdered in 2015. Walksalong has been a vocal advocate for awareness of the issue, engaging her two daughters in her work as well. She is currently earning her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Walla Walla University, has volunteered as an Indigenous Liaison with the Yellowstone County ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) Court established July 2017 along with District Judge Rodney Souza with the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Ft. Peck tribes.


In this role, Walksalong assisted with strengthening communication between state/county and tribal relations to benefit families and children in the foster care system. She currently works providing in-home therapeutic services to families in Yellowstone County. Walksalong has worked in the foster care field and with adolescent mental health for over seven years.


Following the short film, the filmmakers and panel participants will discuss the film and the larger context surrounding missing and murdered indigenous women. Refreshments will be provided.


This event is sponsored by the MSUB Women’s and Gender Studies Center with support of Zonta Club of Billings. It is part of the National Endowment for the Arts program, “The Big Read,” sponsored in part by Humanities Montana, Billings Community Foundation, and the Charles M. Bair Family Trust.


For more information, please contact the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center, Dr. Jennifer Lynn, 406-657-2922.


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