Gabby Petito’s Case Uncovers Inequalities Within Indigenous Communities in Wyoming

Scene+from+authentic+Native+American+dances+at+the+Indian+Village+on+the+rodeo+grounds+of+the+Cheyenne+Frontier+Days+celebration+in+the+Wyoming+capital+city.+%7C+The+Gates+Frontiers+Fund+Wyoming+Collection+at+the+Library+of+Congress+

Carol M. Highsmith

Scene from authentic Native American dances at the Indian Village on the rodeo grounds of the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration in the Wyoming capital city. | The Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection at the Library of Congress

Late last month, the body of 22 year old Gabby Petito was recovered from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Petito had been reported missing since late August. Within the next few days her disappearance gained lots of attention, especially on social media. It seemed like the whole world was holding their breath, waiting for any discoveries in her case. But while everyone had their attention set on Petito and her fiance, those same people seemed to not be aware of an even bigger tragedy happening in that very same state.

The Salt Lake Tribune has reported that within the last decade, in Wyoming alone, around 710 indegenous people have been reported missing, a majority of those people being women. From the 23 counties in Wyoming 22 of them have reported disappearances. From the reported disappearances 57% were women and 85% were kids and teens, who knows how many disappearances have gone unreported. 

According to The Guardian, upon seeing the uproar Petito’s disappearance caused, many indeginous families were angered due to the lack of media and news coverage being done on the missing people in their community. Many of the indigenous disappearances end in murders, murders that go years unsolved, if they ever are solved.

While it is understandable that Petito’s case brought more attention due to her large social media following, I do believe that the lack of coverage on the disappearances of hundreds of indegenous people is extremely unfair. Why did it take days for the search for Petito to begin but years have passed and the number of unsolved indigenous disappearances has only grown? It’s nothing new to know that white people are favored in America and that any other race must face discrimination and injustice in everyday life. To me, this story not only proves this but it shows just how bad this problem truly is. 

There are very simple ways to end this streak of disappearances and bring peace to many families all over Wyoming. The simplest way to start would be to use social media to spread information and bring awareness to these issues. The reason no one knows this is happening is because of lack of coverage. There have already been many big news instagram accounts start to bring awareness, as well as many Native Americans speaking out about these disappearances. Now that everyone is starting to become aware of this issue and helping spread awareness, I have high hopes we’ll begin to see change soon.