JACKSON, Wyo. — Today, May 5, is a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations and these disappearances or murders are often connected to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and sex trafficking.
According to a statewide report conducted in 2020, Indigenous people make up 21% of homicides in Wyoming even though only 3% of the population is Indigenous.
The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing person database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.
While these statistics are startling, many cases of missing or murdered indigenous women have received little to no attention.
To represent the silence of the media and law enforcement in the midst of this crisis, the MMIW movement has used a red hand over the mouth as a symbol. It stands for all the missing women and girls whose voices are not heard.
In September, Gabby Petito’s disappearance drew a frenzy of coverage on traditional and social media, bringing new attention to a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome.” The extensive coverage of her case renewed calls to also shine a spotlight on missing people of color.
In Wyoming, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade have had any media coverage, according to the state report.
Last year, Governor Mark Gordon signed a proclamation declaring May 5 as Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day.
“The current reports of abduction and murder of Native women and girls are alarming and represent one of the most horrific aspects of the spectrum of violence committed against Native women,” said the Governor’s proclamation.
Gov. Gordon’s Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons (“M&MIP”) Task Force was convened in 2019 to determine the scope of the problem in Wyoming and to recommend ways to begin addressing it.
In January of 2021, the Task Force released the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Statewide Report. The report found that homicide rates are eight times higher for indigenous persons than for white people in Wyoming. Families and victims also report experiencing barriers once a crime is reported, making it difficult to navigate investigative and enforcement processes which cross jurisdictional boundaries.
Today, President Biden announced that he has officially proclaimed May 5 as Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.