Updated: Sep 24, 2022
Everyone knows what happened to Gabby Petito. Everyone was talking about the 22-year-old social media influencer who went missing while on a cross country road trip with her fiancé and was consequently found strangled to death in a Wyoming national park. The case gained national attention, with everyone theorizing over the tragedy of Gabby. And it was, and still is a tragedy. No family should ever have to go through what her family went through, and yet, the nation was obsessed with the mystery surrounding her and was desperate to know more.
In fact, The Seattle Times reported in September 2021 that a google search of Gabby Petito’s name yielded 340 million results. However, this obsession was one-sided. A Native American woman named Mary Johnson, who was a member of the Tulalip tribe went missing nearly a year ago. She is still missing to this day, and yet a google search of her name returns about 6,000 results. Why is there such a big difference?
Missing and murdered Native American women are not receiving the help that they need. News stations see a missing white woman as breaking news, a top story. However, Native American women are less likely to be seen as victims, with their families frequently being asked questions such as “Was she out drinking?” or “Could she have run away?” And when these women are depicted this way on the news, people watching are less likely to care what happens to those women, feeling less sympathy. As a result of the public not showing interest, the press will stop reporting about them all together, which means that law enforcement will not feel any pressure to actively search for these women. The effects are continuous.
One of the reasons Gabby Petito’s body was found so quickly in a national park of that size is because of how many eyes were on the case. All while there are so many Native American families that are still waiting on law enforcement to give them answers on their missing and/or murdered daughters. The media will move on from Gabby Petito to another white woman, never looping back around to the countless women of color who need help.
But what can you do to help? There is an organization called Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA and their number one mission is to bring the missing home, as well as help the families of murder victims cope with their grief. You can visit their website to donate to their cause, follow them on Facebook, as well as email and call them with new information. They keep an active list of missing POC women that is worth keeping up with.
In conclusion, you have the ability to help these Native American women. They can no longer be ignored. It is not that missing white women like Gabby Petito deserve any less attention, but it should be equal for all women. The tragedies Native American women face are just as impactful, and they and their families deserve justice.