The Missing Media

Addressing the lack of attention that Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women receive

Adithi Deeduvanu, Staff Writer

Since September 11th, 2021 when Gabby Petito was first reported missing; her case has taken the media by storm. Gabrielle Petito was an American woman who went missing on a cross-country hiking trip with her boyfriend. According to the Washington Post, within a seven-day period, “Petito had been mentioned 398 times on Fox News, 346 times on CNN, and 100 times on MSNBC.”

The same article mentions that in the State of Wyoming, where Gabby went missing- at least 710 Indigenous people (mostly women), have gone missing from 2011-2020. Many are presumed to be dead. Gabby’s case is being covered by all major news outlets, and rightfully so. But as The Skimm says, only 18% of stories of Indigenous women being murdered make it to print (compared to 51% of stories about white women being murdered.)

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) deserve more press and media coverage than they are receiving right now. 

Simply defined, the MMIW movement advocates for the end of crimes against Indigenous women. A movement like this is imperative because Native American girls are 10x more likely to be murdered than the national average. The movement also seeks to educate on the high rates of murder and abductions that Native people face. 

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, there are at least 33 missing Indigenous women within our home state of Nebraska. But, many missing person cases on reservations are not reported, because there is a cultural disconnect between law enforcement and Native Americans. 

Fortunately, in 2020, UNO received 170,000 dollars in funding to bridge gaps in reporting for missing and murdered Native American women and children in Nebraska.” The grant was funded because of bill LB 154, which was signed so that Nebraska State Patrol could write a report on the MMIW in the state.

As Nebraska State Patrol Captain Matt Sutter states,  “Our goal is to provide Nebraskans a full understanding of the scope of this issue, as well as to provide viable solutions.”

However, not every state is giving the issue as much attention as they should. We can see this because as of 2016 there have been 5,712 cases of MMIW reported by the  National Crime Information Center. While the U.S Department of Justice has only reported 116. The discrepancy between these two reports is striking. 

The reason for the discrepancy is jurisdictional issues between different levels of government, lack of communication with law enforcement, and that most of the perpetrators of these crimes are Non-Natives. 

As Strong Hearts Native Helpline writes, “Today, there is ample evidence that genocide still occurs through the inhumane conditions on reservations, the jurisdictional issues that prevent the prosecution of non-Native perpetrators on tribal lands, and ignoring the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.”

There are over 5,700 MMIW in the US who deserve our attention. It is important that we recognize MMIW on a national scale, but that change starts with us. The first step to helping Indigenous Women is by getting educated on the issues that harm them and informing those around us. Together, we can help the women whose faces and names deserve to be known.