Indigenous women: Media not Gabby Petito is to blame for ignored ‘violence epidemic’

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wooChicken Nicole Wagon’s daughter went missing, did not call to appear good Morning America.

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It was not that the disappearance of the Jade Wagon, who laughed and smiled, was not newsworthy: the 23-year-old mother had disappeared without a trace, exactly a year after one of her sisters, 30-year-old Jocelyn, was murdered at home Was. .

And so, Nicole Wagon had the spectacle of a distraught mother, still mourning the loss of one of her children, while organizing a search for another.

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Still, it was a story that no one really wanted to tell.

“When Jade went missing, none of the media called me. And we mainly conducted the search amongst ourselves, using Facebook, and just going out while watching,” Wagon recounts. Granthshala.

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“It was only after Jade’s body was found two weeks later that a newspaper contacted.”

Lynette Gray runs for Congress to raise awareness about the Bull Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

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Lynette Gray runs for Congress to raise awareness about the Bull Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

Last month, when Gabby Petito was reported missing, and she is said to be alive in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, about 150 miles west of the wagon home on the Wind River Reservation, her feelings parted ways. increased from

On one hand, she felt for Petito’s family, and understood at least some degree of how the young woman’s mother must have felt when she had to register her daughter as missing.

But she couldn’t help but feel the pain and anger the case of the missing white YouTuber received over the wall-to-wall media coverage, contrary to the interest — or lack thereof — of the press paying for its own plight. done baby.

Wagon, 51, is one of several Indigenous campaigners who have condemned what they allege is systemic discrimination, resulting in both the police and the media devoting a fraction of their resources to the affairs of women of color. disappear, than the cases of missing white women.

The stark imbalance, dubbed the “Missing White Woman Syndrome” by the late Black broadcaster Gwen Ifill in 2004, is all the more confusing, activists say, because women of color are victims of violence, and disappear, at a much higher rate than the white woman.

Among women of color, data shows that Native American or Indigenous women disappear or suffer the most violence. In Wyoming alone, at least 710 Native Americans went missing between 2011 and 2020, according to a report good Put out by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force established in 2019.

It found that 85 percent of the missing were children or youth and 57 percent were women. It found that even though Native Americans make up less than three percent of the state’s population, they still account for 21 percent of homicide.

It also calculated that the murder rate was eight times higher for Indigenous people than for white men, and six times higher for Indigenous women than for white women.

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Gabby Petito’s funeral

Yet, this crisis of murder and missing Indigenous women (MMIW) is not limited to Wyoming. Across the United States, campaigners say Native Americans are killed at disproportionate rates and receive little media coverage.

Some say it is a crisis faced by indigenous communities.

Lynette Gray-Bull, a member of the Wyoming Taskforce, describes the crisis as “no less than a pandemic.”

Grey-Bull, a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe who challenged Liz Cheney for Wyoming’s single-at-large congressional seat last year to raise awareness about violence, says data on the disappearance of indigenous women in the country represents less than 20 percent of cases. The last decade received any media coverage.

“I think it’s an epidemic, because we make up two percent of the population, and yet three out of four Indigenous women are victims of some form of violence in their lifetime,” says Gray Bull, who Hunkpapa is from the Lakota and North Arapaho and heads an organization called Not Our Native Daughters.

“Then, when you consider that 70 percent of violence is perpetrated by non-natives, it means that everyone has a role to play in what is happening to our communities.”

Does he think this is outright racism?

“One of the reasons I would offer would be systemic racism,” she says. “As native people, we already know that we come up against racism on a daily basis, and also the feeling of not being important. We understand that if we don’t have blonde hair, or blue eyes, then We can’t make it to the front page of the 6 o’clock news or the morning edition. These things don’t happen to us.”

The Jade Wagon went missing on the Wind River Reservation a year after her sister was murdered

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The Jade Wagon went missing on the Wind River Reservation a year after her sister was murdered

Gray-Bull says investigators understand that the first 24 or 48 hours are critical in a missing persons case. And because the Petito case got such huge coverage, it resulted in larger members of the public coming up with suggestions, or posting them on social media like Tik-Tok.

When Republican Mark Gordon, the governor of Wyoming, established the task force two years ago, he began to partially recognize the scale of the crisis.

“I believe it is imperative to ensure the public safety of all Wyoming citizens,” he said. “Wind River Reservation operates under a separate criminal justice jurisdiction scheme—but North Arapaho and East Shoshone tribal members are also citizens of Wyoming.”

The governor’s office said Gordon did not have time for an interview.

However, Kara Chambers, chair of the task force and director of the Wyoming Division of Victim Services, says the media has the ability to cover cases like Petito’s, as well as the vast number of missing simple women cases. .

He is not surprised by the way the media reacted to Petito’s case. The study, published by her task force earlier this year, highlighted that even when Indigenous women’s cases received media coverage, it often included language and descriptions that almost seemed to blame the victim.

“Was I surprised by the amount of coverage Gabby Petito got? No, I wasn’t,” she says. “Because, we know that’s what the media does. She is a beautiful girl… and the media attention helped us recover her body very quickly.”

She continues: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s the pivot, in which people say ‘Hey, we pay a lot of attention when young women with white, blue eyes disappear, but when there are brown-haired women. If so why not the brown-eyed indigenous people who go missing’. It’s a pleasant surprise for anyone leading this task force.”

Ashley Havierner Loring went missing in the summer of 2017. Her older sister, Kimberly Loring, was on vacation in Morocco when she last communicated with him by text.

When she returned home to northwest Montana, where her sister, 20, was about to start college, she wasn’t unnecessarily worried. He reported his sister missing, but found that the police were not interested.

Loring, 27, says that like many other Indigenous women who turn to the police for help, she was told her sister was probably “having a party” and would eventually come home.

She says the authorities have thrashed victims like this for generations, even in cases of missing children.

So, like in the case of Nicole Wagon in Wyoming, Loring tries to locate her sister, a member of the Blackfeet tribe.

“I think she ran into the wrong group of people,” she says from her current home in Portland, Oregon, adding that her younger sister has always been very trusting.

Does he still believe that his sister is alive?

“It’s such a difficult question for me to answer. Recently, some of the information we’ve received suggests the best we can hope for is to bring her [remains] Home… but you’re always hoping.”

She also wants her sister’s case to have the same coverage as Gabby Pettito.

“We need to tell everyone’s stories, not just one type of person or group or race.”

Anyway, the case of her sister is depicted in current season of true crime podcasts, up and disappeared, hosted by documentary producer, Payne Lindsay, who is investigating the case. Loring says she is “doing a lot more than the police are doing”.

Lindsay says that when such incidents do occur, they are fueled by the bureaucratic traps that face indigenous communities – overlapping jurisdictions, different forces.

He says he believes the police forces of indigenous communities should be better funded so that they are better able to serve their communities.

Nicole Wagon, who now makes protecting her three other daughters her first priority, says she can’t help but conclude that racism plays a key role in the differing reactions to Petito’s disappearance. , in comparison to his own child, Jade, who was always “laughing and laughing and seeing the brighter things in life”, disappeared.

She is trying to capture the hype created by the Petito case to draw attention to the crisis in Wyoming and the pain endured by families like her.

“This is a blessing in disguise because it has shed light on the situation in Wyoming, and has allowed 710 …

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Wyoming

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