MTV airing Hanna Harris' story on 'True Life Crime'

Vincent Schilling

'We've barely scratched the surface in talking about the systemic issues that have led to decades-long trauma to Indigenous people,' said host Dometi Pongo

MTV will air the latest episode of “True Life Crime” tonight detailing the disappearance and murder of the Northern Cheyenne woman and mother of a small child, Hanna Harris.

Hanna Harris was a 21-year-old woman living in Lame Deer, Montana, that went out for a Fourth of July celebration. The day after the celebration, her abandoned car with a flat tire was found on a dead-end road. Five days later, Hanna Harris’ body was discovered in a remote field, not far from the road her car was discovered on.

The death of Hanna Harris rocked the community of Lame Deer as well as devastated the family.

“True Life Crime” is an expansion of the Emmy award-winning “True Life” franchise on MTV. The episode focusing on Hanna Harris is the last episode in an eight-episode docu-series that follows the investigations of Dometi Pongo, an award-winning journalist, and MTV news host.

MTV describes the episode as follows:

Mom Gone Missing: Runaway or Murder Victim? The Hanna Harris Case - Lame Deer/Billings, MT

Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old mother went out to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends, but never returned home. Hours after, police discovered her car abandoned and five days later her body is found in a remote field. What happened to Hanna Harris?

Pongo says though he went into the episode with a fascination toward Native culture due to its similarities to his own West African culture — to include respecting elders and protocols in the confines of traditions and ceremonies. He had never before visited a Native reservation and admitted he had not known anything about the depth of the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis that affected Indian Country.

“Before I did the show, and before we started looking at cases and looking at missing persons, I knew nothing. I thought, ‘Wow, I didn't know anything about this.’ It's indicative of why these shows matter so much,” Pongo said.

“I started reading articles and doing research. I also have friends who mobilized and joined the protest for the Dakota Access pipeline, and they were telling me, that during [the] process, it wasn't just about the pipeline, it was about all of these issues that affect Indigenous communities that have fallen by the wayside. And it wasn't until I got into this project, that I realized I didn’t know about the #MMIW hashtag. I wasn't aware of it, and yeah, it was embarrassing that I knew very little.”

MTV's True Life Crime episode - Host Dometi Pongo
“True Life Crime” is an expansion of the Emmy award-winning “True Life” franchise on MTV. The episode focusing on Hanna Harris is the last episode in an eight-episode docu-series that follows the investigations of Dometi Pongo, an award-winning journalist, and MTV news host. (Photo courtesy MTV)

During the episode, Pongo interviews several members of the Lame Deer and Northern Cheyenne community, including Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear and members of Hanna Harris’ family to include her cousin Marti Fisher, aunt Myra Fisher, and Hanna’s mother Malinda and sister Rose.

Pongo also delved into the jurisdictional issues facing Indian Country in relation to tribal nations, and tribal police forces outsourced through the federal agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Pongo said his role in the episode was to dive down into that rabbit hole of information but get it first hand instead of just going online and looking at an interview. He said he was awakened to a new cultural perspective.

“I was trying to figure out specifics of the case because I couldn't fathom how law enforcement could wait five days before searching for someone. What were these other things that were happening that would not even give them the impetus to at least feign interest in this?” he said. “That led me to figure out the jurisdictional issues that exist on reservations as it relates to state law enforcement. I was completely unaware of that culture and that disconnect.”

Pongo and MTV also delve headfirst into the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as the related legislation. Throughout the episode, a plethora of missing and murdered Indigenous women’s missing posters are shown to include Leona Kinsey, Vanessa Ronnebaum, Selena Not Afraid, Ashley Loring Heavyrunner, Henny Scott, Melanie Marie James, Jermain Liz Charlo, and many others.

Pongo says the biggest takeaway from the episode for him was the parallels between Indigenous people and his own West African culture.

“The thing that I wish I said in hindsight because I learned it throughout the process of the investigation, is about the trauma left behind by colonization, and how far-reaching that trauma is and how it manifests itself differently in different communities … You don't really understand it in great detail until you really start to peel back the layers,” Pongo said.

“My main goal with this show and it's aligned with the producers as well is that these stories give us an opportunity to have a larger conversation about the systemic issues that lead to the outcomes that we profile in the episode. And that was the most important thing to me,” Pongo said. “We've barely scratched the surface about the systemic issues that have led to a decades-long ago trauma and MMIW.”

True Life Crime finale airs on Wednesday, Feb 26 at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST on MTV

About the case

Mom Gone Missing: Runaway or Murder Victim? The Hanna Harris Case - Lame Deer/Billings, MT

Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old mother went out to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends, but never returned home. Hours after, police discovered her car abandoned and five days later her body is found in a remote field. What happened to Hanna Harris?

About the series

Continuing the expansion of its Emmy® Award-winning “True Life” franchise, MTV takes on an investigative lens with “True Life Crime.” The eight-episode docuseries follows award-winning journalist and MTV News host Dometi Pongo as he uncovers the truth behind some of the most controversial cases in recent years and dares to ask the unanswered questions of the victims’ closest friends and family.

Indian Country Today originally reported the name of Hanna misspelled with an H. The correct spelling is Hanna.

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, on Twitter - @VinceSchilling and Instagram - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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Comments (3)
No. 1-2
SaturnKnows
SaturnKnows

Who the hell goes on a 3-day bender with a couple of known "drifters" (as they're referred to in other publications)??? She had a hand in her own death. When you have a baby, guess what, your partying days are OVER.

And what is the matter with this Dometi Pongo dude? He makes more than one hate-filled remark about white people. Well, it's been open season on caucasians for several years now.

WhiteKnife
WhiteKnife

Embarrassingly, last year was the first time I heard about this feminicide that is happening to our NA women. My condolences to the families of these women/girls. For the person that responded (SaturnKnows) get over yourself. This story isn’t about you!


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