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Missing and murdered Indigenous women cases getting new attention

Jingle Dress dancers are pictured during an event to raise awareness for HB116 in the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The bill created a Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force. Photo: Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The death of Gabby Petito has brought domestic violence back into the spotlight. Specifically, hundreds of stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Utah’s Native American communities and across the country.

The Urban Indian Health Institute put Salt Lake City 9th on its list of cities with high numbers of victims – 24 by their count. Salt Lake City police dispute that, but they say the actual numbers have been underreported.

Activist Michelle Brown has worked on this issue for years.

Domestic violence cases shed light on plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women

“It’s so essential because it really gives us the quantitative numbers that we need and really what the scope of the problem is to begin with,” Brown tells KSL NewsRadio.

A recent and more detailed report from the University of Wyoming also analyzed media coverage of recent cases of domestic violence compared to that of Indigenous victims.

Senior Researcher Emily Grant is the lead author.

“So we found that there are fewer articles that are even written about indigenous victims,” Grant said, “and then when there is an article that’s written, they often contain negative character framing.”

Michelle Brown also expects the media spotlight on these cases to fade.

“It’s a very fast and furious moment where the media will make the comparisons between a white woman’s case and an indigenous woman’s case,” she said.

Lawmakers focus on violence against Indigenous women

Utah State Representative Angela Romero chairs Utah’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. She says the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls need to be heard.

“They want to be acknowledged that someone in their family went missing or someone in their family was murdered even though that case is cold, and for them to be believed,” Romero said.

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts

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