The tragic story of Gabby Petito has taken the world by storm.
A quick search of her name on any social media platform will result in thousands and thousands of posts on her disappearance.
The news media runs updates on her story by the hour, keeping her top of mind for millions of Americans.
But over the last decade, there has been a growing trend of missing women in Wyoming, the place Petito could have possibly gone missing. Hundreds of indigenous people in the state have been reported missing in the last 10 years, most of them were young girls.
Gabby Petito was reported missing on September 11, 2021. She was apparently taking a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend Brian Laurie. The two were thought to have visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when she went missing. The national park sits about two hours northwest of Wind River Indian Reservation, the state’s only Native American Reservation. It is the home of Shoshone and Arapaho Indians. Their reservation knows too often of the pain and trauma of missing family members.
According to a report published by the state, 710 indigenous people, mostly young girls, went missing in Wyoming from 2011 to 2020. They also found 85% of the miss were kids and 57% were females. Of the state’s 23 counties, indigenous people had been reported missing in 22 of them, with barely any media coverage outside local publications. Media coverage was also studied in the report and it found that 30% of Indigenous homicide victims made the news, compared to 51% of white victims.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has acknowledged the problem of missing and murdered indigenous people. In 2019 he established the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force, but was pressured to do so. In a 2020 bill, he required law enforcement to receive training on cases that involve indigenous people, but many indigenous still feel their protections are an afterthought.
The worldwide media coverage of Gabby Petito has shed light on the disparities in our empathy and understanding of people of color. When Black and brown girls go missing, who should their parents turn to for help? The story of Gabby Petito is sad and tragic, but what’s worst is the fact that hundreds of young indigenous girls will go missing with no loud megaphones to make sure they get the justice they deserve.
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