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Podcast on Jermain Charlo explores what it’s like to be an Indigenous woman in Montana



Connie Walker, host of Stolen: The Search for Jermain

A new podcast, “Stolen: The Seach for Jermain,” investigates the disappearance of Jermain Charlo, 23, who went missing in 2018 after leaving a bar in Missoula.

Hosted by investigative journalist Connie Walker, the eight-episode series is a Spotify and Gimlet Media production. Episode two was released on Monday. 

Charlo is one of dozens of missing Indigenous women in Montana. Though Native Americans comprise 6.7% of Montana’s population, they accounted for 31% of the state’s active missing persons cases as of Feb. 17, according to the state’s task force. 

Eighteen of the missing Indigenous persons, including Charlo, had been missing for more than one year. 

Walker is no stranger to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. A Cree woman from Okanese First Nation in Canada, Walker grew up hearing stories of women in her community who disappeared. Walker said her personal connection and experience as an Indigenous woman motivates her work. 

“As an Indigenous person, there are a lot of shared experiences. We’ve all been impacted by colonization and survived attempted genocide and are affected by institutional racism,” she said. 

But because she isn’t from the United States, Walker also acknowledged that, in some ways, she is an outsider in Charlo’s community.

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“I’m not from Montana, and I don’t know what it means to be a Bitterroot Salish woman. So everything I learned was so eye-opening and enlightening and connected me to Jermain, her life and the crisis of violence,” she said. 

In the series, Walker takes listeners along as she visits bars in Missoula, homes on the Flathead Indian Reservation and other spots in Montana that might provide insight into Charlo’s disappearance. Walker also speaks with members of Charlo’s family, including her grandmother, mother and boyfriend. 

Stolen: The Search for Jermain launched on Spotify on March 1. Episode two released March 8.

Walker said understanding Montana and Charlo’s community is critical in investigating her disappearance.

“There’s a long history of journalists coming in and taking people’s stories and leaving, and when that’s happened before, it’s caused a lot of harm and led to mistrust of media, understandably. A lot of Indigenous people felt exploited by that kind of extractive reporting,” she said. 

Despite a history of mistrust, Walker is transparent in her reporting and works to build relationships with her sources. 

“You can only get to know Jermain through her family, and she comes from a long line of strong women, who are fierce advocates for her. … I try to help them understand my motivations, my perspective and my personal experience to build that trust.”

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Walker in the podcast also examines settler history in Montana, tracing back to Charlo’s ancestors who did not want to leave the Bitterroot Valley and move to the Flathead Indian Reservation. 

“That displacement of Indigenous people, that kind of legacy and story you hear over and over, along with broken treaties and other assimilation policies result in inequalities that we see today. The impact of those decisions impacts the life of every ancestor for generations,” Walker said. 

Walker said the consequences of this displacement still affect Indigenous people, including Charlo and her family.

“Jermain’s disappearance is not where her story begins. It began with what it means to be an Indigenous woman in Montana and how this relationship with settlers, how this long history is often ignored.”

While the podcast investigates Charlo’s disappearance, Walker’s goal for the series is twofold. She hopes listeners get to know Jermain, her family and her community, but she also wants listeners to gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be an Indigenous woman in America today. 

“There are women in Jermain’s life who have been pushing for answers about her disappearance, and I see my role as helping amplify voices. We attempt to lift up their voices in advocating for their loved one to understand who she was, why her disappearance is so devastating and that they still want justice.”

Episode two of Stolen: The Search for Jermain is available now on Spotify. 

Nora Mabie can be reached at Follow her on Facebook @NoraMabieJournalist or on Twitter @NoraMabie. To support coverage of tribes in Montana, subscribe today.

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