The disappearance of Gabby Petito became a national sensation on social media and in the media. But hundreds of Indigenous people — the majority of them women — have disappeared in the state where her body was found without drawing much, if any, attention.
At least 710 Indigenous people disappeared in Wyoming from 2011 to 2020, according to a report issued in January by the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force. Disappearances were reported in 22 of the state’s 23 counties; 57% were women or girls; and 85% were juveniles.
Petito’s body was discovered Sunday near Grand Teton National Park, eight days after she was reported missing. And the search for her fiance, Brian Laundrie — a “person of interest” in her disappearance and death — continues. And the case continues to make headlines.
According to the report, 11% of missing Indigenous people were found within a day, 50% were found within a week, and 21% were missing for 30 days or longer. Only 11% of white people remained missing for that long.
Among the data in the report:
• 30% of Indigenous homicide victims made the news, compared to 51% of white victims. Just 18% of the murders of Indigenous women and girls were reported in newspapers.
• From 2000 to 2020, 21% of the murder victims in Wyoming were Indigenous people, who make up 3% of the state’s population.
• Between 2010 and 2019, the homicide rate among Indigenous people was eight times the homicide rate of white people in Wyoming. It was 6.4 times higher among Indigenous women than white women.
The task force concludes that “the true number of MMIP [missing and murdered Indigenous persons] in Wyoming is likely higher than what this report conveys” because of “striking inconsistencies” in reporting and data, which have “aided the creation of a faulty narrative that results in the underreporting of the scope of the MMIP epidemic.”
“Sadly, these findings are not unique to Wyoming,” the report states. “…The pervasiveness of the problem suggests that the MMIP crisis is systemic.”