Marissa Harrison – Self-defense for the Defenseless

“You healed a broken community.”

Paul Frank, Leader of Fort Hall MMIP Group

My name is Marissa Harrison, I am a Communication student with an emphasis in Strategic Organization.

The project I chose to develop in my last year at BYU-Idaho was to work on the Fort Hall Indian Reserve to help with Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).


Native Americans have the highest human trafficking rate amongst all minority groups, 1 in 3 Native women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, murder is the third-leading cause of death among this population. The list goes on, it has become so big that they created the name, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People” or MMIP for short.

I had the privilege to work with an MMIP organization on the reservation to provide a self-defense course and self-defense kits.

As I started this project, I knew it was not only going to be challenging analytically but emotionally. I met with the MMIP non-profit organization on the Fort Hall Indian Reserve often and we had updates and discussed missing and murdered people on the Fort Hall Reservation.

I sat in my first meeting with the leaders of the group as an outsider. I observed these persistent, powerful women who have lost loved ones. I observed the youngest member, Angelica, an 18-year-old dedicated to helping find her sisters and brothers and the way she still wore a smile on her face. I watched as hesitancy turned into hope as I shared who I was and what my project would entail and why it would benefit them.

Game Plan:

For starters, once I pitched my idea all of the women of the group knew this was what we needed to do.

After talking we developed a plan to get word out and we set the date and talked about businesses to connect with. We would meet each week after that first initial meeting we all had together on the Fort Hall Reservation.

[Below: First meeting together in October.]

We then developed a flyer to be sent out in the community and broadcasted on the news. Next, was to work with instructors and the police department in Pocatello to teach the course. I had already created partnerships with self-defense kit businesses before our first meeting together. However, a lot of them fell through so I worked with PR on the reservation to find more solutions. We were able to get discounted supplies for them which included pepper spray, alarms, and stabbing objects.

The instructors found were Isaac and Amanda Payne of Rexburg. They are proud owners of PAC Jiu-Jitsu and Isaac is in the police sergeant for the Sheriff Department in Rexburg. They developed the Smart Defense and have been on national television for the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

We also were able to work with Walmart to provide refreshments for the event. We gathered water, bananas, and Cheez-It’s.

Works Created:

  1. Flyer

2. Itinerary for the night of the course sent to group members

3. Self-defense infographic developed with the instructors

4. Measurement of success


This was a success with 26 individuals showing up to learn how to protect themselves. It was also great to work with police and combine both forces together of people who live on the reservation or work there and the outside forces being the police.

The instructors I brought after the first class offered to keep this going and teach those interested. The environment was uplifting but also solemn once we got to the Q&A portion where these individuals really opened up about experiences that had happened to them and others.

Overall this was a great experience and I developed a large skill set in wearing different caps to make this event possible.

[Below: Event and news coverage we got.]

[Below: MMIP Group of Fort Hall]