LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Authorities have identified a body found in Wyoming as 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito. The disappearance of the photogenic young white woman with a carefree social media presence a week ago has been headline news across the country. And that's frustrating to people who say the media ignores an epidemic of missing and murdered Native American women in Wyoming and elsewhere. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska reports.
KAMILA KUDELSKA, BYLINE: Since the year 2000, Indigenous people have made up 21% of homicides in Wyoming, even though only 3% of the population is Indigenous. That's according to a state report released in January. Cara Chambers, chair of the task force that released the report, says only 30% of Indigenous homicide victims had any media coverage. That number is closer to 51% for whites.
CARA CHAMBERS: The themes in media portrayal of homicide victims 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 the homicide occurred versus anything about the victim.
KUDELSKA: Chambers says those kinds of portrayals can deter people from reporting that their loved ones are missing to the media or police.
LYNNETTE GREY BULL: It's kind of heart-wrenching when you look at a white woman who goes missing and is able to get so much immediate attention.
KUDELSKA: Lynnette Grey Bull, who is Northern Arapaho, is a leading advocate for improving Wyoming's response to missing and murdered Indigenous women.
GREY BULL: And it should be the same if an African American person goes missing or a Hispanic person goes missing, a Native American, you know - and then compare that to a white person that is missing. We should have the same type of equal efforts that are being done in these cases.
KUDELSKA: Both Grey Bull and Chambers hope more people will recognize differences in the urgency and attention cases of missing Indigenous women get and improve response to them in the future.
For NPR News, I'm Kamila Kudelska.
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