BROWNING, Mont - Despite first responders’ best attempts, 17 days have passed since three-year-old Arden Pepion went missing in Blackfeet Nation. With teams scaling back the search last week, her family’s taking things into their own hands.
With still no sign of little Arden, her Grandparents Irene and Antoine say they’re preparing a camp for volunteer searchers, after local law enforcement scaled back their efforts.
“I was just really disheartened ‘cause they didn’t have no command post anymore,” said Irene, Arden’s grandmother.
Both she and Antoine say Arden was an adventurous sweetheart, always eager to try things herself. “She just never sat still in the house, she was always curious,” said Antoine, the three-year-old’s grandfather. “She would dress herself up if she could.”
But they could only feel disbelief when they first heard the news mid April, wondering how their bright little girl could go missing. “My daughter Clarissa called me 6:00 am in the morning… I just couldn’t believe it you know,” said Irene.
After looking around for 10 days straight, Blackfeet Law Enforcement (BLES) said in a press release that they have a ‘contingency plan’ for future searches.
However, Irene and Antoine tell Montana Right Now they’re worried, as officers juggle other missing person cases.
“Everyday we’ve been going down there [to Joe Show East Road], and we don’t see any vehicles around,” said Irene. “They said Fish & Game would go down and they would be checking, but we haven’t seen them.”
“When they scaled back, there was nobody left,” said Antoine.
MRN tried reaching out to local police several times, but haven’t gotten any comment yet as of the writing of this article, with most law enforcement out and searching around for families’ missing loved ones.
Irene and Antoine plan on setting up camp around 10:00 am Tuesday by the Catholic Mission Church near Joe Show Road and Two Medicine Road, giving food and supplies for anyone willing to help look for Arden.
Both the Pepions and BLES say anyone searching should watch out for weather conditions and dangerous animals like bears around Joe Show Road.
If you’re interested in giving a helping hand to the family, you can call Tammy Afterbuffalo, who’s coordinating the volunteer effort, at (406) 229-0199.
If you’d prefer to show support another way, the Pepions will host a candlelight vigil for Arden in Government Square by Old Chief’s Park in Browning on Friday, May 14 from 6 - 8:00 pm.