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Native Americans ‘Fighting To Be Heard’ As Gabby Petito Media Coverage Sparks Debate

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 22 Sep 2021 18:57
Native Americans 'Fighting To Be Heard' As Gabby Petito Media Coverage Sparks DebateAlamy

A task force has expressed concerns that Gabby Petito’s death is overshadowing the hundreds of Indigenous women missing in Wyoming.

Petito was reported as missing on September 11 by her family. Her body has since been found in Teton County, Wyoming, with her death going on to be determined as a homicide.

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Outlets across the globe covered Petito’s case, and continue to cover it in the wake of her death and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, going missing.

Laundrie was made a person of interest soon after Petito’s family filed a missing persons report.

Brain Laundrie and Gabby Petito (Brian Laundrie/Instagram)Brian Laundrie/Instagram

With the worldwide coverage in mind, Cara Chambers, chair of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force, has highlighted that only 30% of homicide cases involving Indigenous women are covered by the media, compared to 51% of white victims.

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A report by the group published at the beginning of the year said that 700 Indigenous people were reported missing between 2011 to 2020 in Wyoming alone. Around 85% of this figure were children and 57% were female.

Following Petito‘s death, Chambers has expressed concerns that media coverage of cases like hers may deter Indigenous people from reporting crimes.

Indigenous or Native American women marching with a banner with fists in air (Alamy)Alamy

She said, as per Oxygen:

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The themes and media portrayal of homicide victims are that when you had an Indigenous victim, the articles were more likely to have negative character framing, more violent and graphic language, really focusing more on sort of like where homicide occurred versus anything about the victim.

In a bid to change this, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a new unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs that will focus on missing and murdered Indigenous people in the US.

Haaland said in January, ‘Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated.’

Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Alamy)Alamy
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At the time of her statement, approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons had been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Haaland went on to promise that the new unit would ‘provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families’.

According to Lynnette Grey Bull, founder of Not Our Native Daughters, Indigenous people are almost 50 times more likely to experience domestic violence compared to any other ethnicity in America.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas  

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Gabby Petito, missing, no-article-matching, Now, US News

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Oxygen and 2 others