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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Joint Indigenous Organizations Statement About the Gabby Petito Case #MMIWG


Organizations: StrongHearts Native HelplineAlaska Native Women’s Resource CenterNational Indigenous Women’s Resource CenterAlliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence

Several weeks of national mainstream news media coverage has been focused on Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white woman who recently was reported missing and subsequently found murdered. We offer our sincere condolences to her family. No one should have to experience this kind of tragedy exacerbated by noted indicators of domestic violence.

We are national Indigenous organizations dedicated to ending the cycle of violence that adversely affects 84% of Indigenous women (Rosay, André B.) during their lifetime. Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher (Bachman, Ronet) than other races in some communities. More than half have been physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Institute of Justice.

The loss of an Indigenous woman’s life is all too familiar in our communities. Hundreds of Indigenous people go missing every year. Many of them vanish without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. Too many of them are found murdered with their cases often left uninvestigated and unresolved by local, state and/or federal authorities.

Yet, none of our relatives to date have received much, if any, attention from the news media, concentrated efforts by law enforcement departments, or an outpouring of financial contributions from ordinary citizens. Indian tribes, communities and family members don’t have unlimited financial resources to help us locate our missing relatives. Up until recently, our missing relatives have not amassed social media followings to galvanize searches. The contrast that we are witnessing regarding this particular case is heartbreaking to the many Indigenous families and communities dealing with the daily pain of losing their loved ones. The contrast sends the message that society has little regard for Indigenous lives.

We are not alone in seeing systemic and law enforcement bias when it comes to the lack of coverage of and case resolutions of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR). In 2004 this lack of attention and bias was given a title — “Missing White Woman Syndrome” — by the late American news anchor Gwen Ifill. Moreover, American news outlets continue to be less demographically diverse, with staffing consisting of primarily white male journalists, according to the Pew Research Center. The lack of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) journalists in the mainstream contributes to additional challenges that Indigenous people face when it comes to equal coverage of MMIR and other related issues.

It is truly devastating to lose another life to violence. There are no words to fully express the pain of a parent losing a child in a violent way. As Indigenous peoples, we understand too well the ugly, ongoing nature of violence across this land and upon our people through our lived experiences. It’s been happening since the advent of colonization.

Missing and murdered Indigenous relatives deserve the same attention and resources that society, the media and the justice system have given to Gabby Petito’s case. Their lives are important. As partner organizations in the effort to provide support and advocate for Indigenous women and peoples impacted by domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, and sexual violence, we honor all individuals, families and communities impacted by MMIR and all those working so diligently to end this crisis of violence.

What you can do to help:

For Individuals 

      Educate yourself on the high rates of violence in our Indigenous communities and other communities of color, as well as community-based solutions

      Engage with media about MMIR

      Send emails, make phone calls, comment on articles, send letters to editors, etc.

      Learn about and share the stories of MMIR in your area, including their names, and the circumstances of their cases, etc.

      Learn who your law enforcement are in your community and educate yourself on cross-jurisdictional issues

      Donate to organizations advocating for justice for MMIR and ending domestic violence

      Raise awareness on social media: like, follow and share the organizations listed below that are focused on domestic violence and MMIR at the national, regional and local levels

      StrongHearts Native Helpline

      National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

      Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center

      National Congress of American Indians

      Sovereign Bodies Institute

      Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence 

      Indian Law Resource Center 

      Urban Indian Health Institute

      Rising Hearts Coalition

      Learn how to support loved one, friend or colleague struggling against intimate partner

      Learn about and practice bystander intervention

      Learn how to hold batters, predators and other offenders accountable

      Volunteer at organizations working to respond to and end domestic violence

      Attend, support or organize a socially distanced community event in your area to raise awareness of MMIR. Organizers can plan a community walk or run, vigil or any type of fundraiser/awareness event they choose.

For Organizations 

      Center BIPOC voices on your platforms

      Practice unbiased, equitable attention on all missing and murdered people

      Uplift Indigenous organizations and coalitions advocating for MMIR

      Support May 5th annually as the National Day of Awareness for MMIW

Additional Resources

Check out these MMIW resources: 

      Learn more with MMIW Special Collection in NIWRC’s Resource Library

      Explore the MMIW Toolkit for Families and Communities developed by NIWRC

      View the MMIW database on Sovereign Bodies Institute website

      Download Urban Indian Health Institute’s “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls: A Snapshot of Data from 71 Urban Cities in the United States”

      View the NamUS-National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

      Explore the NIWRC’s Online Resource Library and Restoration Magazine for articles and resources on MMIW


Rosay, André B., “Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men,” NIJ Journal 277 (2016): 38-45, available at 

Bachman, Ronet; Zaykowski, Heather; Kallmyer, Rachel; Poteyeva, Margarita; Lanier, Christina, “Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and the Criminal Justice Response: What is Known”, NIJ (2008): 223691, available at

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