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As Petito case captivates U.S., missing Native women ignored By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland listens to a question during a hearing for a budget request for the Department of the Interior for 2022 to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – Activists lament that the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women doesn’t get the attention paid to Gabby Petito.

FBI agents found Petito’s body in Wyoming on Sunday after she went missing during a road trip with her fiancé. After Petito went missing on her road trip, 22-year-old White woman was discovered by FBI agents in Wyoming. The story became a huge internet success and the lead story of major news media outlets.

“There’s a rate of violence against Native women that’s happening and it doesn’t seem to be highlighted,” Jolene Holgate, a director for the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, told New Mexico television station KRQE on Tuesday.

“My heart goes out to the family of Gabby Petito. I know they’re probably looking for closure and that’s very important,” said Holgate.

“The national attention and resources that were put toward that case when there’s such a high number of MMIW (missing and murdered indigenous women) cases in Wyoming and even the neighboring state of Montana, it did not feel good. I think there’s this practice of discounting indigenous bodies when it comes to folks who go missing or murdered.”

In Wyoming, the state where Petito’s body was found, only 18% of indigenous female homicide victims get newspaper coverage, compared with 51% for white female and male victims, according to a state report.

According to the state report, Wyoming had reported 400 missing indigenous girls and women between 2011 and 2019.

Federal data shows that Native woman are killed at more than 10 times their national average rate by homicide. This is third most common cause of Native female death.

According to Wyoming’s report, media coverage about homicides among indigenous people was less likely to use violence and paint the victim as a negative figure. The coverage of Hispanic, Black and Hispanic women missing in homicides is also sparsely and heavily covered by commentators.

U.S. officials have stated that investigations into violence against Native Americans are underfunded. Many murders and cases of missing persons remain unsolved or unaddressed for many decades. Deb Haaland was the first Native American to be appointed as Interior Secretary. Interior is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It oversees Indian law enforcement.

Haaland established a Missing and Murdered Unit earlier this year. The multi-agency taskforce will investigate a crisis she said was “centuries in the making.”

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Mike Robinson
Mike covers the financial, utilities and biotechnology sectors for Street Register. He has been writing about investment and personal finance topics for almost 12 years. Mike has an MBA in Finance from Wake Forest University.