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The Missing Indigenous Women


I have no interest in playing Oppression Olympics. What happened to Gabby Petito is horrible and should spark a national conversation on domestic violence. However, those who point out that the media is obsessed over another young blonde woman and completely ignore all the women of color who disappear are also absolutely correct and this needs to be addressed.

In Wyoming alone, there are presently 710 missing indigenous people from the last decade, mostly women. The large majority of them are certainly dead and a huge number of those victims of domestic violence. And yet we never, ever, ever talk about this. There sure ain’t going to be national media coverage. We have to talk about why this is. The answer is that we live in a racist society that simply prioritizes the lives of white women over those of Native women, Black women, Latina women, and Asian women.

Petito, a 22-year-old white woman from New York, was reported missing on September 11. Her family had last spoken on the phone with her on August 24, when she told them she and Laundrie were headed to Wyoming to visit Grand Teton.

Since the search for her began last week, some efforts have been focused on the national park, which is located less than two hours northwest of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Wind River is the only reservation in the state, home to thousands of Shoshone and Arapaho Indians, but the report found Indigenous people have been reported missing in 22 out of the state’s 23 counties, making it a state-wide problem.

The report also looked at media coverage, finding only 30% of Indigenous homicide victims made the news, compared to 51% of white victims.

This is also interesting:

When the murders of Indigenous people were covered, the news reports were “overly graphic” compared to white people, Wyoming Survey and Analysis Research Scientist Emily Grant, who worked on the report, told WPR.

This is called structural racism. This is the racism that infects every part of our society–schools, science, technology, media, our emotional reactions, everything. This is the cancer we as whites must purge from ourselves. It’s not up to people of color to lead us. That’s not fair to them. It’s up to you to see how racism is framing everything in your life and then actively act to change that. Caring about indigenous women on the media–and calling our your local networks for instance for not discussing them–is one piece of this. We aren’t even educating ourselves on these issues, which is also necessary.

We have lots of work to do, on race and on domestic violence. Today is a good day to start.

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