Details about missing indigenous women

Over the last decade, 710 Indigenous people have been reported missing, with 466 of those reports coming from Wyoming, the same state in which Gabby Petito went missing.

Media coverage is essential for investigating a missing person because the public can help, and it is often used as a tool for recovering victims. But there is often a hierarchy of victims that get that attention. Those who are female, young or White receive the most help in being found, while Black, Indigenous or Latinx missing people often do not receive the same attention.

Criminologists have created two theories regarding media coverage for missing people. The rarity theory suggests that victims who are seen as ideal –– females, children, and the elderly, unusual stories, or stories that involve more than one victim are considered “newsworthy.” The devaluation theory proposes portrayals of victims of crime as White in the media feed into predicting perceptions of the fear of victimization for White people. 

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is a movement made up of Indigenous people which fights for media coverage of missing Indigenous women. 

In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported 5,712 cases of missing Indigenous women and girls. On the other hand, the U.S Department of Justice's missing person database had only reported 116 cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death for Indigenous women. Indigenous women and girls are murdered 10x higher than all other ethnicities.

The lack of attention given to these cases is concerning.

However, the disappearance of Brian Shaffer, a White medical student at Ohio State University, received endless media coverage. Shaffer was 27-years-old when he was last seen on Apr. 1, 2006, inside the now-shuttered Ugly Tuna Saloona on Chittenden Avenue. Since he vanished, Shaffer's case has been featured on television shows, in a Netflix special and several podcasts.

Recently, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation released an age-progressed photo of Shaffer, in hopes that members of the public will come forward.

Although Brian Shaffer and Gabby Petito's disappearances are tragic and deserve the media attention, so do hundreds of Indigenous individuals. 

The Indigenous population on the Columbus campus sits at 0.1 percent, but they still deserve the same amount of security and safety as the rest. 

Since 2017, May 5 has been a day to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the local, regional, and national levels and raise awareness for efforts to bring them home.

But one day is not enough. Their stories are worth telling until every girl and woman is brought home.


Originally in Black x Bold Magazine