On Mother's Day last year, 22-year-old Willy Pepion got into a fight at a party on the Blackfeet Reservation. He suffered a cracked skull and was taken to a federally-operated jail. He received substandard medical care and, despite his continuing cries for help, died hours later in a cell. Both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have launched inquiries, but both cases remain open nearly a year later. Pepion's death is unsolved and his death at the detention center highlights the many ways the federal government fails to bring safety, security and justice to Indian Country.
The Mountain West News Bureau, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will produce a series and podcast investigating Pepion's death, as well as the broader struggles Indigenous communities have with unsolved murders, unsafe detention centers, and a lack of federal law enforcement presence.